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"It is without any question the most extraor- 
dinary and significant experience available 
to human beings this side of the Beatific 
Vision."— Aldous Huxley 

The publication of MOKSHA pre- 
sents for the first time an authorita- 
tive collection of the prophetic and 
visionary papers of Aldous Huxley— 
his writings on mind-altering drugs, 
psychology, education, politics, the 
collective imconscious and the future 
of humankind. 

In May 1953 Aldous Huxley, while 
in the company of his wife and a 
physician-friend, was administered 
four-tenths of a gram of mescalin. 
The mystical and transcendent ex- 
perience which followed became the 
basis for one of his most fascinating 
and controversial books. The Doors 
of Perception, and set him off on an 
exploratory course which was to 
produce a profound and revolution- 
ary body of work. 

MOKSHA is an engrossing narrative 
of Huxley's preoccupation with the 
mysterious inner reaches of the 
human mind, the "visionary expe- 
rience and its relation to art and the 
traditional conceptions of the other 
world." Taking its name from an 
ancient Sanskrit text, moksha spans 

( r^^ 

Copy 1 

HUXLEY, Aldous Leonard 


HUXLEY, Aldous Leonard 



Copy 1 

^ V 




Writings on Psychedelics and 

the Visionary Experience (1931-1963) 

Edited by 

Michael Horowitz &. Cynthia Palmer 




Copyright © 1977 by Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer. 
Published by the Stonehill Publishing Company, a division 
of Stonehill Communications, Inc., 10 East 40 Street, 
New York, N.Y. 10016. 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted 
in any form or by any means without permission from the 
publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief 
passages in connection with a review written for inclusion 
in a magazine, newspaper or broadcast. 

The material included in moksha was selected from the 
Aldous Huxley collection in The Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial 
Library, San Francisco, California. 

ISBN: 0-88373-042-1 


Book Design by Kenneth Miyamoto. 
First Printing 

A Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library Edition 

Printed in the usa 

Grateful Acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint 
•previously published material: To Chatto and Windus, Ltd., for "Wanted: A New 
Pleasure" from Music at Night and Other Essays, Copyright © 1931 by Aldous 
Huxley, and a selection from The Olive Tree and Other Essays, Copyright © 1936 by 
Aldous Huxley. To the Curtis Pubhshing Company for "Drugs That Shape Men's 
Minds," from The Saturday Evening Post, Copyright © 1958 by The Curtis Pub- 
lishing Company. To Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., for a selection from This Time- 
less Moment by Laura Arch era Huxley, Copyright© 1968 by Laura Archera Huxley. 
To Grune & Stratton, Inc. for "Mescaline and the 'Other World'," Copyright © 
1956 by Grune & Stratton, Inc. To Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., and Chatto 
and Windus, Ltd., for portions of Brave New World, Copyright © 1932 by Aldous 
Huxley; Time Must Have a Stop, Copyright © 1944 by Aldous Huxley; The Devils 
of Loudun, Copyright 1952 by Aldous Huxley; The JDoors of Perception, Copyright © 
1954 by Aldous Huxley; Heaven and Hell, Copyright © 1955 by Aldous Huxley; 
Brave New World Revisited, Copyright © 1958 by Aldous Huxley; Island, Copy- 
right © 1962 by Aldous Fluxley; Aldous Huxley 1894-1963: A Memorial Volume, 
edited by Julian Huxley, Copyright © 1965 by Julian Huxley; Forty-five letters 
(abridged) from Letters of Aldous Huxley, edited by Grover Smith, Copyright © 
1969 by Laura Huxley; "Brave New World Revisited: Proleptic Meditations on 
Mother's Day, Euphoria and Pavlov's Pooch", as it appeared in Esquire Magazine, 
Copyright © 1956 by Laura Huxley, by permission of Mrs. L. Huxley. To Laura 
Archera Huxley, for "Exploring the Borderlands of the Mind," Copyright © 1962 
by Aldous Huxley; "Culture and the Individual," Copyright © 1963 by Aldous 
Huxley (courtesy G.P. Putnam's Sons and H.M.H. Publishing Co., Inc.; originally 
appeared in Playboy); and "Visionary Experience," Vol. 2 of The Human Situation, 
(Recorded) Lectures by Aldous Huxley, and reprinted by permission. To the Journal 
of Clinical Psychology for "Visionary Experience", Copyright © 1962 by Aldous 
Huxley. Reprinted by permission. To New American Library, Inc., for a selection 
from High Priest, by Timothy Leary, Copyright © 1968 by League for Spiritual 
Discovery. To The New York Academy of Sciences, for "The History of Tension," 
Copyright © 1957 by The New York Academy of Sciences. To tlie Parapsychology 
Foundation, Inc., for "The Far Continents of the Mind," Copyright© 1957 by the 
Parapsychology Foundation, Inc. To The Psychedelic Revie^v, for a selection from 
The Psychedelic Review, Vol. i, no. 3, Copyright © 1964 by The Psychedelic 
Review. To University Books, Inc., for selections from The Psychedelic Experience, 
by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert, Copyright © 1964 by 
Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary, and Ralph Metzner. To Charles C. Thomas, Pub- 
lisher, for "The Final Revolution," Copyright © 1959 by Charles C. Tliomas, 
Publisher. To The Viking Press, Inc., for "Inter\dew with Aldous Huxley," from 
Writers at Work: The Paris Re^>iew Interviews, Second Series, Copyright © 1963 
by The Paris Review, Inc.; All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Viking 
Penguin, Inc. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) 

Dedicated to 

Sunyata, Jubal, Winona, Yuriel, Joaquin 
and all other children of the future 


Preface by Albert Hofmann xiii 

Introduction by Alexander Shulgin xvii 

Editors' Note xxi 

Part I: Precognition 



A Treatise on Drugs 




Wanted, a New Pleasure 








Propaganda and Pharmacology 




A Boundless Absence 



19 52 

Downward Transcendence 


Part II: 

Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 







May Morning in Hollywood 








The Doors of Perception 








The Far Continents of the Mind 




Mescaline and the "Other World" 








Disregarded in the Darkness 








Heaven and Hell 




Brave New World Revisited 








History of Tension 


21 J 




22 J 


Chemical Persuasion 


23 J 




24 J 


Drugs That Shape Men's Minds 


25 ^ 




26 J 


The Final Revolution 


27 J 




28 J 


The Art of Fiction 


29 J 


Mushrooms for Lunch 


30 J 


Harvard Session Report 


31 ^ 




32 ^ 


London Interview 


33 ^ 


Visionary Experience (Copenhagen) 


34 ^ 


Exploring the Borderlands of the Mind 


35 ^ 


Love and Work 


36 . 




37 ^ 




38 . 






Culture and the Individual 




Nobly Born! 



Visionary Experience (MIT) 27 J 

Instructions for Use During a Psychedelic 

Session 286 

Tributes from The Psychedelic Review 289 

Coda (from Orion) 299 

Source Notes 303 

Index 3^7 

"But he who contemplates the yd mantra of OM, i.e., views God as 
Himself, becomes illuminated and obtains moksba. Just as a serpent, 
relieved of its oldened skin, becomes new again, so the yogi who wor- 
ships the yd mantra relieved of his mortal coil, of his sins and earthly 
weaknesses, and freed with his spiritual body to roam about throughout 
God's Universe, enjoys the glory of the All-Pervading Omniscient Spirit, 
ever and evermore. The contemplation of the last mantra blesses him 
with moksha or immortality." 

From The Mandukyopanishat being The Exposition of OM 

the Great Sacred Name of the Supreme Being in the Vedas. 

Trans. Pandit Guru, Datta Vidyarthi, 

Prof, of Psychical Sciences, Lahore. Lahore, 1893. 

"Open your eyes again and look at Nataraja up there on 
the altar. Look closely. In his upper right hand, as you've 
already seen, he holds the drum that calls the world into 
existence and in his upper left hand he carries the destroying 
■fire. Life and death, order and disintegration, impartially. But 
now look at Shiva's other pair of hands. The lower right hand 
is raised and the palm is turned outwards. What does that 
gesture signify? It signifies, 'Don't be afraid; it's All Right' 
But how can anyone in his senses fail to be afraid, when it's so 
obvious that they're all wrong? Nataraja has the answer. Look 
now at his lower left hand. He's using it to point down at his 
feet. And what are his feet doing? Look closely and you'll 
see that the right foot is planted squarely on a horrible little 
subhuman creature— the demon, Muyalaka. A dwarf, but im- 
mensely powerful in his malignity, Muyalaka is the embodi- 
ment of ignorance, the manifestation of greedy, possessive 
selfhood. Stamp on him, break his back! And that's precisely 
what Nataraja is doing. Trampling the little monster down 
under his right foot. But notice that it isn't at this trampling 
right foot that he points his finger; it's at the left foot, the foot 
that, as he dances, he's in the act of raising from the ground. 
And why does he point at it? Why? That lifted foot, that danc- 
ing defiance of the force of gravity— it's the symbol of release, 
of Moksha, of liberation. Nataraja dances in all the worlds 
at once— in the world of physics and chemistry, in the world 
of ordinary, all-too-human experience, in the world finally of 
Suchness, of Mind, of the Clear Light. . . ." 

From Aldous Huxley's Island (1962) 


In The MID-1950S when Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception and 
Heaven and Hell appeared, I found therein descriptions of experiences 
and the articulation of ideas which, since the discovery of LSD twelve 
years earlier, had constantly occupied my mind. 

By that time scientific research along the broadest hues had already 
been carried out with LSD in medicine, biology, pharmacology, and 
psychiatry, and about one thousand papers had already been published. 
But it seemed to me a fundamental potentiahty of this chemical agent 
had not yet been sufficiently considered or recognized, namely its 
ability to produce visionary experiences. I. was therefore very pleased 
to learn that a person of such great literary and spiritual rank as Aldous 
Huxley, using mescaline which exhibits similar qualitative effects as 
LSD, had turned to a profound study of this phenomenon. Research 
on mescaline had been done as early as the turn of the century, but 
interest in this drug had afterwards largely diminished. 

About the same time that Huxley carried out his experiments with 
mescaline, I held LSD sessions with the well-known German author 
Ernst Jiinger in order to gain a more profound knowledge of the vision- 
ary experiences produced by the drug in the human mind. Ernst Jiinger 
recorded his experiences in an essay entitled Besuch auf Godenhqlm 
(Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt a.M., 1952), which gives in literary 
form the essence of his interpretations. On the other hand, Aldous 
Huxley in the aforementioned books not only provides a masterly 
description of his encounter with mescaline, but also an evaluation of 
this type of drug from the highest spiritual and mental point of view, 
taking into account sociological, aesthetic, and philosophical aspects. 

Aldous Huxley indeed advocated the use of certain drugs, which led 
some people who studied his works superficially, or not at all, to re- 
proach him with being to a certain extent guilty for the rising wave of 

Xiv ) ) PREFACE 

drug abuse, or even of being a drug addict himself. This accusation has 
of course no justifiable basis, as Huxley has only dealt with substances 
for which Humphry Osmond has created the term "psychedelic." 
These are the psychotropic agents which had so far been denominated 
in scientific literature by the terms "phantastica," "hallucinogens," or 
"psychotomimetics." These are not narcotic addiction-producing sub- 
stances like the opiate heroin, or like cocaine, with their ruinous conse- 
quences for body and mind of which Huxley warned emphatically. 

Psychotropic substances of plant origin had already been in use for 
thousands of years in Mexico as sacramental drugs in religious cere- 
monies and as magical potions having curative effects; The most im- 
portant of these psychedehcs are: mescaline, found in the peyotl cactus; 
psilocybin, which I have isolated from sacred Mexican mushrooms 
called teonanacatl; and, of course, LSD. Despite the fact that LSD 
(Lysergsaure-diathylamid, lysergic acid diethylamide) is a semisynthetic 
substance which I have prepared in the laboratory from lysergic acid 
contained in ergot, a fungus growing on rye, from the viewpoint of its 
chemical constitution as well as its psychotropic mode of acting, it 
belongs to the group of Mexican sacramental drugs. This classification 
is further justified because we have found in another Mexican sacra- 
mental drug ololiuqui the active substances lysergic acid amide and 
lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide, which are, as the chemical terms 
express, very closely related to lysergic acid diethylamide. 

Ololiuqui is the Aztec denomination for the seeds of certain morning 
glory species. LSD can be regarded as an ololiuqui drug raised to higher 
potency because, whereas the active dose of the ololiuqui constituent 
lysergic acid amide amounts to 2 mg (0.002 g), a similar efiEect can be 
produced with as little as 0.05-0.1 mg of LSD. 

There are the profound consciousness-altering psychic effects of 
peyotl, teonanacatl, and ololiuqui which made the Indians of the Latin 
American countries so respectful and awestruck of these drugs, causing 
these people to place a taboo on them. Only a ritually clean person, 
one prepared by a period of prayer and fasting, had the right and 
qualification to ingest these drugs and then only in such a purified body 
as their divine nature could develop, whereas the impure felt themselves 
going insane or mortally stricken. 

It was the endeavor of Aldous Huxley to show how the inward power 
of these sacramental drugs could be used for the welfare of people 
living in a technological society hostile to mystical revelations. The 
collected essays and lectures in the present volume will promote better 
understanding of these ideas. In Huxley's view, the use of psychedelics 

Preface ( ( xv 

should be part of a technique of "apphed mysticism," which he de- 
scribed to me in a letter of February 29, 1962 as 

a technique for helping individuals to get the most out of their 
transcendental experience and to make use of their insights 
from the "other world" in the affairs of "this world." Meister 
Eckhart wrote that "what is taken in by contemplation must 
be given out in love." Essentially this is what must be devel- 
oped—the art of giving out in love and intelligence what is 
taken in from vision and the experience of self-transcendence 
and solidarity with the universe. 

In his last and most touching book, the Utopian novel Island, Aldous 
Huxley describes the kind of cultural structure in which the psychedel- 
ics— in his narration called "moksha-medicine"— could be applied in a 
beneficial manner. Moksha is therefore a very appropriate title for the 
present book, for which we have to be very grateful to the editors. 

Albert Hofmann 

Burg LL. 



MoKSHA Is A collection of Aldous Huxley's writings taken largely from 
the last decade of his life. An appreciation of these addresses, essays 
and letters, and of the value he placed upon them, requires some intro- 
duction to the writer as well as to the written heritage he has left us. 
Aldous Leonard Huxley was born on July 26, 1894, ^^^° ^ notable 
literary and scientific family. He was the third son of Dr. Leonard 
Huxley— teacher, editor, man of letters— and of Julia Arnold, niece of 
the poet Matthew Arnold and sister of the novelist, Mrs. Humphrey 
Ward. He was the grandson of T. H. Huxley, the scientist, and the 
great-grandson of a formidable moralist. Dr. Thomas Arnold. His 
eldest brother, Julian, died February 21, 1975, ending that generation 
of world-recognized Huxleys. 

Huxley's own writings best document his transition from poet to 
novelist to mystic to essayist to scientist. At the age of sixteen a 
disastrous eye infection left Huxley substantially blind, putting an 
end to a hoped-for medical career. Forced to depend upon braille 
for reading, a guide for walking, and a typewriter for writing, he 
considered his disability irreversible, and his early poems such as 
The Defeat of Youth (1918) and Leda (1920) express bitterness. 
However, the title poem of The Cicadas (1931) shows a recovery from 
this morbidness, and in a storm of productivity Huxley turned from 
poetry to the novel, shocking the reading public with Chrome Yellow 
(1921), Antic Hay (1923), and Those Barren Leaves (1925). He was 
compared with two contemporary literary rebels, Noel Coward and 
Richard Aldington; however, whereas these latter attacked the middle 
class without suggestions for improvement, Huxley's writings provided 
the seeds of constructive synthesis. In the collection of travel essays 
Jesting Pilate (1926) and his novel Time Must Have a Stop (1944), 
one can see the polish of phrase that was to become his signature. 

xviii )) Introduction 

and catch glimpses of the philosophical concerns which were soon to 
command his attention. 

Brave New World (1932) preceded George Orwell's 1984 by some 
twenty years and is today perhaps the best-known work of Huxley. 
A disturbingly large number of his prophecies have been fulfilled. In 
this novel Huxley presents a panacea-drug called Soma (Christianity 
without tears, morality in a bottle) which must be contrasted with his 
later creation Moksha (a process of education and enlightenment). 

Huxley's view of the scientist, as one who bridges the disciplines 
of religion and philosophy with science, follows principles he had first 
laid down in Time Must Have a Stop. In this novel he carefully 
avoided extremes of commitment: he felt that in a quest for truth 
and understanding, to have no hypothesis would deny one a motive 
or reason for experimentation, whereas to construct too elaborate a 
hypothesis would result in finding out what one knows to be there 
and ignoring all the rest. His "minimum working hypothesis" assumes 
the existence of a Godhead or Ground, a transcendent and immanent 
selflessness, with which one must become identified through love 
and knowledge. 

The meeting with Dr. Humphry Osmond in 1953, which provided 
the crucible for Huxley's personal experiments in challenging this 
"minimum working hypothesis," is the logical starting place for this 
present collection of writings. Mescaline, then a little-studied drug 
found in the dumpling cactus Anhalonium lewinii, was to serve as 
the catalyst for this experiment. Mescaline was first isolated from the 
plant in 1894 ^Y Heffter, first synthesized by Spath in 1919, and 
pharmacologically explored by Rouhier and Beringer in the middle 
1920s. Yet by the early 1950s, only clinical and physiological studies 
had been recorded concerning the effects of this drug; there had been 
no literary or humanistic inquiry. 

The results of Huxley's scientific-humanistic inquiry were profound 
and immediately apparent. The short-term consequences were the 
recording of the drug-induced experiences in The Doors of Perception 
(1954), ^"^ *^^ elaboration upon these and their extrapolation to 
other consciousness phenomena in Heaven and Hell (1956). The 
longer term consequence of this experiment and the several that 
followed convinced Huxley of the soundness of his working hypothesis: 
that there was a Ground and it was the "everything that is happening 
everywhere in the universe," or better, the awareness of this "every- 
thing." He was fascinated by the potential in drugs such as mescaline, 
LSD, and psilocybin to provide a learning experience normally denied 
us within our educational system. His lectures, novels and essays 
repeated the theme of desperation and hope. In an article in Playboy 


(Nov. 1963) he expressed despair that "in a world of explosive popula- 
tion increase, of headlong, technological advance and of militant 
nationalism, the time at our disposal— for the discovery of new energy 
sources for overcoming our society's psychological inertia— is strictiy 
limited." The hope, as expressed in his Utopian fantasy Island (1962), 
is that "a substance akin to psilocybin could be used to potentiate the 
non-verbal education of adolescents and to remind adults that the 
real world is very different from the misshapen universe they have 
created for themselves by means of their culture-conditioned prejudices." 

In Island the concept of such a drug is developed with the introduc- 
tion of a fungus, Moksha. From its name it is apparent that it is not 
the Soma presented in Brave New World; Moksha is derived from the 
Sanskrit word for "liberation" and Soma from the Greek for "body." 
In this book Huxley again precipitated controversy ahead of his time 
with his description of the death process as a learning process, and 
one which may be enriched by the administration of psychedelic 
drugs. The sincerity of this concept is evident in his ultimate experi- 
ment, in which he received two small doses of LSD, one several 
hours before death and a second just prior to death. In the last 
moments, he was conscious and peaceful. 

During the last decade of his life, Huxley was intentionally con- 
troversial, yet he was desperately sincere. It is impossible to guess what 
he would write today, some fifteen years later, following the extensive 
proselytization for the use of psychedelic drugs that occured in the 
late 1960s. There was an explosive usage at that time, often by people 
who had not prepared themselves for the experience or for the 
personal integration of its values. Wliatever he might have written, 
Huxley's role in literature and in the expression of the philosophy 
of consciousness expansion can never be denied. 

Alexander T. Shulgin 
Lafayette, California 

Editors* Note 

The Presentation Is chronological, except for the placement of one of 
the "Visionary Experience" lectures in an appendix at the end, and 
minor discrepancies arising from our attempt to organize each year's 
correspondence. Addresses are arranged according to the dates they 
were delivered, rather than when they were printed; essays, according 
to the date of their first appearance in print, rather than their publica- 
tion in book form. The memoirs of Humphry Osmond and Laura 
Huxley are placed in the time zone in which they belong rather than 
their date of publication. 

In the interest of reproducing the complete texts of a number 
of very scarce and difficult-to-obtain essays and lectures, we have 
risked some occasional repetition which we hope is balanced by the 
virtue of providing those subtle variations in the language and ideas 
of a master prose stylist. 

The spelling of mescalin(e) has not been standardized, as preference 
is pretty well split between the popular use of the shorter form, and 
the more scientific use of the longer, Huxley's personal spelling of the 
word psychodelic has been retained, as this was clearly his preference. 

"Bedford" refers to Sybille Bedford's superb Aldous Huxley: A 
Biography (New York: Knopf, Harper & Row, 1974). The "Smith" 
number at the head of a letter refers to Professor Grover Smith's 
monumental edition of Letters of Aldous Huxley (New York: Harper 
& Row, 1969). Although references are to the first U. S. editions of 
Huxley's books, it should be noted that of the works reprinted in 
this volume all except Time Must Have a Stop were first published 
in London by Chatto and Windus. 

xxii ) ) editor's note 

We wish to acknowledge the contribution of Robert Barker, a 
director of The Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library, who conceived 
of this anthology and provided source material and research. We thank 
Joan Wheeler Redington for providing the transcript of the "Visionary 
Experience" record album, and for comparing the French and English 
versions of the Planete and Fate articles. We are very grateful to 
Mrs. Laura Huxley for her invaluable support and assistance at every 
stage of our endeavors, and to Michael R. Aldrich, Executive Curator 
of the Ludlow Library, for editorial assistance. We also thank Humphry 
Osmond, Alexander T. Shulgin, Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner for 
supplying materials from their archives. 

We welcome communication from Aldous Huxley readers who may 
have or know of any additional material for moksha. 

Michael Horowitz 
Cynthia Palmer 



Chapter 1 


A Treatise on Drugs 


Phantastica, Louis Lewin's epochal surrey of psychoactive drugs 
used around the world, made its English-language appearance in 
1931. Sometime that year— either in London where his first play 
TTie World of Light was produced, or on the French Riviera 
where he was writing Brave New World— AWous Huxley came 
upon this "unpromising-looking treasure" and "read it from 
cover to cover with a passionate and growing interest!' It appears 
likely that Lewin's treatise served to introduce Huxley to the 
history of drugs and their effects, although 22 years would pass 
before he made the first experiment upon himself, with mescalin 
—and paid tribute to Lewin in the first line of the book resulting 
from that experiment. (There is no evidence to support Francis 
Kin^s assertion that Aleister Crowley introduced Huxley to 
mescalin in Berlin in the igios.) Huxley's earliest printed text 
on drug-taking touches on themes he would return to again and 
again in his later work: the widespread and pervasive use of drugs, 
their importance in religious ceremony, man's predilection for 
occasional vacations from the everyday world, the problem of 
addiction, the failure of prohibition, and drugs of the future. 

The Other Day I discovered, dusty and neglected on one of the 
upper shelves of the local bookshop, a ponderous work by a German 
pharmacologist. The price was not high; I paid and carried home the 
unpromising-looking treasure. It was a thick book, dense with matter 
and, in manner, a model of all that literary style should not be. 

4 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

Strictly, an unreadable book. Nevertheless, I read it from cover to 
cover vi'ith a passionate and growing interest. For this book was a kind 
of encyclopedia of drugs. Opium and its modern derivatives, morphia 
and heroin; cocaine and the Mexican peyotl; the hashish of India and 
the near East; the agaric of Siberia; the kawa of Polynesia; the betel 
of the East Indies; the now universal alcohol; the ether, the chloral, 
the veronal of the contemporary West— not one was omitted. By the 
time I had reached the last page, I knew something about the history, 
the geographical distribution, the mode of preparation and the 
physiological and psychological effects of all the delicious poisons, by 
means of which men have constructed, in the midst of an unfriendly 
world, their brief and precarious paradises. 

The story of drug-taking constitutes one of the most curious 
and also, it seems to me, one of the most significant chapters in the 
natural history of human beings. Everywhere and at all times, men 
and women have sought, and duly found, the means of taking a 
holiday from the reality of their generally dull and often acutely 
unpleasant existence. A holiday out of space, out of time, in the 
eternity of sleep or ecstasy, in the heaven or the limbo of visionary 
phantasy. "Anywhere, anywhere out of the world." 

Drug-taking, it is significant, plays an important part in almost 
every primitive religion. The Persians and, before them, the Greeks 
and probably the ancient Hindus used alcohol to produce religious 
ecstasy; the Mexicans procured the beatific vision by eating a 
poisonous cactus; a toadstool filled the Shamans of Siberia with 
enthusiasm and endowed them with the gift of tongues. And so on. 
The devotional exercises of the later mystics are all designed to 
produce the drug's miraculous ejffects by purely psychological means. 
How many of the current ideas of eternity, of heaven, of super- 
natural states are ultimately derived from the experiences of drug-takers? 

Primitive man explored the pharmaceutical avenues of escape from 
the world with a truly astonishing thoroughness. Our ancestors left 
almost no natural stimulant, or hallucinant, or stupefacient, undis- 
covered. Necessity is the mother of invention; primitive man, like 
his civilised descendant, felt so urgent a need to escape occasionally 
from reality, that the invention of drugs was fairly forced upon him. 

All existing drugs are treacherous and harmful. The heaven into 
which they usher their victims soon turns into a hell of sickness 
and moral degradation. They kill, first the soul, then, in a few years, 
the body. What is the remedy? "Prohibition," answer all contemporary 
governments in chorus. But the results of prohibition are not en- 
couraging. Men and women feel such an urgent need to take 
occasional holidays from reality, that they will do almost anything 

A Treatise on Drugs ( ( 5 

to procure the means of escape. The only justification for prohibition 
would be success; but it is not and, in the nature of things, cannot 
be successful. The way to prevent people from drinking too much 
alcohol, or becoming addicts to morphine or cocaine, is to give them 
an efficient but wholesome substitute for these delicious and (in 
the present imperfect world) necessary poisons. The man who invents 
such a substance will be counted among the greatest benefactors 
of suffering humanity. 

Chapter 2 


Wanted, A New Pleasure 


Living on the French Riviera and observing the mores of a 
hedonistic society for whom alcohol and cocaine were the drugs 
of choice, Huxley in this short essay— a spin-off from the writing 
of Brave New World— assumes a tone of playful irony in describ- 
ing a "heavenly, world-transfiguring drug'' that future scientists 
might create. The sensation nearest to the experience of the drug 
is the thrill of speed— meaning not, of course^ some ampheta- 
mine-type reaction, but literally, fastness. 

Nineteenth-century Science discovered the technique of discovery, 
and our age is, in consequence, the age of inventions. Yes, the age 
of inventions; we are never tired of proclaiming the fact. The age of 
inventions— and yet nobody has succeeded in inventing a new pleasure. 
It was in the course of a recent visit to that region which the Travel 
Agency advertisements describe as the particular home of pleasure— 
the French Riviera— that this curious and rather distressing fact first 
dawned on me. From the Italian frontier to the mountains of the 
Esterel, forty miles of Mediterranean coast have been turned into one 
vast 'pleasure resort.' Or to be more accurate, they have been turned 
into one vast straggling suburb— the suburb of all Europe and the two 
Americas— punctuated here and there with urban nuclei, such as Men- 
tone, Nice, Antibes, Cannes. The French have a genius for elegance; 
but they are also endowed with a genius for ugliness. There are no 
suburbs in the world so hideous as those which surround French cities. 
The great Mediterranean banlieue of the Riviera is no exception to the 
rule. The chaotic squalor of this long bourgeois slum is happily unique. 

Wanted, A New Pleasure ( ( 7 

The towns are greatly superior, of course, to their connecting suburbs. 
A certain pleasingly and absurdly old-fashioned, gimcrack grandiosity 
adorns Monte Carlo; Nice is large, bright, and lively; Cannes, gravely 
pompous and as though conscious of its expensive smartness. And all 
of them are equipped with the most elaborate and costly apparatus for 
providing their guests with pleasure. 

It was while disporting myself, or rather while trying to disport 
myself, in the midst of this apparatus, that I came to my depressing 
conclusion about the absence of new pleasures. The thought, I remem- 
ber, occurred to me one dismal winter evening as I emerged from the 
Restaurant des Ambassadeurs at Cannes into one of those howling 
winds, half Alpine, half marine, which on certain days transform the 
Croisette and the Promenade des Anglais into the most painfully 
realistic imitations of Wuthering Heights. I suddenly realized that, so 
far as pleasures were concerned, we are no better off than the Romans 
or the Egyptians. Galileo and Newton, Faraday and Clerk Maxwell 
have lived, so far as human pleasures are concerned, in vain. The great 
joint-stock companies which control the modem pleasure industries 
can offer us nothing in any essential way different from the diversions 
which consuls offered to the Roman plebs or Trimalchio's panders 
could prepare for the amusement of the bored and jaded rich in the 
age of Nero. And this is true in spite of the movies, the talkies, the 
gramophone, the radio, and all similar modem apparatus for the enter- 
tainment of humanity. These instruments, it is tme, are all essentially 
modern; nothing like them has existed before. But because the machines 
are modern it does not follow that the entertainments which they 
reproduce and broadcast are also modern. They are not. All that these 
new machines do is to make accessible to a larger public the drama, 
pantomime, and music which have from time immemorial amused 
the leisures of humanity. 

These mechanically reproduced entertainments are cheap and are 
therefore not encouraged in pleasure resorts, such as those on the 
Riviera, which exist for the sole purpose of making travellers part with 
the maximum amount of money in the minimum space of time. In 
these places drama, pantomime, and music are therefore provided in 
the original form, as they were provided to our ancestors, without the 
interposition of any mechanical go-between. The other pleasures of 
the resorts are no less traditional. Eating and drinking too much; look- 
ing at half or wholly naked ballerinas and acrobats in the hope of stimu- 
lating a jaded sexual appetite; dancing; playing games and watching 
games, preferably rather bloody and ferocious games; killing animals— 
these have always been the sports of the rich and, when they had 
the chance, of the poor also. No less traditional is that other strange 

8 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

amusement so characteristic of the Riviera— gambling. Gambling must 
be at least as old as money; much older, I should imagine— as old as 
human nature itself, or at any rate as old as boredom, as old as the 
craving for artificial excitement and factitious emotions. 

Officially, this closes the list of pleasures provided by the Riviera 
entertainment industries. But it must not be forgotten that, for those 
who pay for them, all these pleasures are situated, so to speak, in a 
certain emotional field— in the pleasure-pain complex of snobbery. The 
fact of being able to buy admission to 'exclusive' (that is generally to 
say, expensive) places of entertainment gives most people a consider- 
able satisfaction. They like to think of the poor and vulgar herd out- 
side, just as, according to Tertulhan and many other Fathers of the 
Church, the Blessed enjoy looking down from the balconies of Heaven 
on to the writhings of the Damned in the pit below. They like to 
feel, with a certain swelling of pride, that they are sitting among the 
elect, or that they are themselves the elect, whose names figure in the 
social columns of the Continental Daily Mail, or the Paris edition 
of the New York Herald. True, snobbery is often the source of excru- 
ciating pain. But it is no less the source of exquisite pleasures. These 
pleasures, I repeat, are liberally provided in all the resorts and consti- 
tute a kind of background to all the other pleasures. 

Now all these pleasure-resort pleasures, including those of snobbery, 
are immemorially antique— variations, at the best, on traditional themes. 
We live in the age of inventions; but the professional discoverers have 
been unable to think of any wholly new way of pleasurably stimulating 
our senses or evoking agreeable emotional reactions. 

But this, I went on to reflect, as I shouldered my way through the 
opposing gale on the Croisette, this is not, after all, so surprising. Our 
physiological make-up has remained ver}' much what it was ten thou- 
sand years ago. True, there have been considerable changes in our 
mode of consciousness; at no time, it is obvious, are all the potentialities 
of the human psyche simultaneously realized; history is, among many 
other things, the record of the successive actualization, neglect, and 
reactualization in another context of different sets of these almost 
indefinitely numerous potentialities. But in spite of these changes 
(which it is customary to call, incorrectly, psychic evolution), the simple 
instinctive feelings to which, as well as to the senses, the purveyors of 
pleasure make their appeal, have remained remarkably stable. The task 
of the pleasure merchants is to provide a sort of Highest Common 
Denominator of entertainment that shall satisfy large numbers of 
men and women, irrespective of their psychological idiosyncrasies. Such 
an entertainment, it is obvious, must be very unspecialized. Its appeal 
must be to the simplest of shared human characteristics— to the 

Wanted, A New Pleasure ( ( 9 

physiological and psychological foundations of personality, not to 
personality itself. Now, the number of appeals that can be made to 
what I may call the Great Impersonalities common to all human 
beings is strictly hmited— so strictly limited that, as it has turned out, 
our inventors have been unable hitherto to devise any new ones. (One 
doubtful example of a new pleasure exists; I shall speak of it later.) 
We are still content with the pleasures which charmed our ancestors 
in the Bronze Age. (Incidentally, there are good reasons for regarding 
our entertainments as intrinsically inferior to those of the Bronze Age. 
Modern pleasures are wholly secular and without the smallest cosmic 
significance; whereas the entertainments of the Bronze Age were 
mostly religious rites and were felt by those who participated in them 
to be pregnant with important meanings.) 

So far as I can see, the only possible new pleasure would be one 
derived from the invention of a new drug— of a more efficient and less 
harmful substitute for alcohol and cocaine. If I were a millionaire, I 
should endow a band of research workers to look for the ideal intoxi- 
cant. If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or 
six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with 
our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its 
aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and signifi- 
cant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a 
kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an 
undamaged constitution— then, it seems to me, all our problems (and 
not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) 
would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise. 

The nearest approach to such a new drug— and how immeasurably 
remote it is from the ideal intoxicant!— is the drug of speed. Speed, it 
seems to me, provides the one genuinely modern pleasure. True, men 
have always enjoyed speed; but their enjoyment has been limited, until 
very recent times, by the capacities of the horse, whose maximum 
velocity is not much more than thirty miles an hour. Now thirty miles 
an hour on a horse feels very much faster than sixty miles an hour in 
a train or a hundred in an aeroplane. The train is too large and steady, 
the aeroplane too remote from stationary surroundings, to give the 
passengers a very intense sensation of speed. The automobile is suffi- 
ciently small and sufficiently near the ground to be able to compete, as 
an intoxicating speed-purveyor, with the galloping horse. The inebriat- 
ing effects of speed are noticeable, on horseback, at about twenty miles 
an hour, in a car at about sixty. When the car has passed seventy- 
two, or thereabouts, one begins to feel an unprecedented sensation— a 
sensation which no man in the days of horses ever felt. It grows intenser 
with every increase of velocity. I myself have never travelled at much 

10 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

more than eighty miles an hour in a car; but those who have drunk a 
stronger brewage of this strange intoxicant tell me that new marvels 
await any one who has the opportunity of passing the hundred mark. 
At what point the pleasure turns into pain, I do not know. Long before 
the fantastic Daytona figures are reached, at any rate. Two hundred 
miles an hour must be absolute torture. 

But in this, of course, speed is like all other pleasures; indulged in to 
excess, they become their opposites. Each particular pleasure has its 
corresponding particular pain, boredom, or disgust. The compensating 
drawback of too much speed-pleasure must be, I suppose, a horrible 
compound of intense physical discomfort and intense fear. No; if one 
must go in for excesses one would probably be better advised to be 
old-fashioned and stick to overeating. 

Chapter 3 




In his futuristic novel Brave New World, a so-called "perfect 
drug" is commercially developed and marketed widely. Huxley 
called it soma after the oldest recorded drug, cited in the ancient 
Hindu scripture, the Rig-Veda, where it is regarded as an in- 
ebriating drink: "a very strong alcoholic beverage . . . obtained 
by fermentation of a plant and worshipped like the plant itself 
(Lewin, Phantastica, p. 161). R. G. Wasson later attempted to 
show that the soma brew employed the psychoactive mushroom 
Amanita muscaria. In a ig6o interview, Huxley described the 
soma of his novel as ''an imaginary dru^' bearing no resemblance 
to mescalin or LSD, "with three different effects: euphoric, hal- 
luncinant, or sedative— an impossible combination." 

"We Have The World State now. And Ford's Day celebrations, and 
Community Sings, and Solidarity Services." 

"Ford, how I hate them!" Bernard Marx was thinking. 

"There was a thing called Heaven; but all the same they used to 
drink enormous quantities of alcohol." 

"Like meat, like so much meat." 

"There was a thing called the soul and a thing called immortality." 

"Do ask Henry where he got it." 

12 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

"But they used to take morphia and cocaine." 

"And what makes it worse, she thinks of herself as meat." 

"Two thousand pharmacologists and bio-chemists were subsidized 
in A.F. 178." 

"He does look glum/' said the Assistant Predestinator, pointing at 
Bernard Marx. 

"Six years later it was being produced commercially. The perfect 

"Let's bait him." 

"Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant." 

"Glum, Marx, glum." The clap on the shoulder made him start, 
look up. It was that brute Henry Foster. "What you need is a 
gramme of soma." 

"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their 

"Ford, I should like to kill him!" But all he did was to say, "No, 
thank you," and fend off the proffered tube of tablets. 

"Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back 
without so much as a headache or a mythology." 

"Take it," insisted Henry Foster, "take it." 

"Stability was practically assured." 

"One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments," said the As- 
sistant Predestinator, citing a piece of homely hypnopaedic wisdom. 

"It only remained to conquer old age." 

"Damn you, damn you!" shouted Bernard Marx. 


Soma (( 13 

"Gonadal hormones, transfusion of young blood, magnesium 
salts. . /' 

"And do remember that a gramme is better than a damn." They 
went out, laughing. 

"All the physiological stigmata of old age have been abolished. And 
along with them, of course. . ." 

"Don't forget to ask him about that Malthusian belt," said Fanny. 

"Along with them all the old man's mental peculiarities. Characters 
remain constant throughout a whole lifetime." 

". . . two rounds of Obstacle Golf to get through before dark. I 
must fly." 

"Work, play— at sixty our powers and tastes are what they were 
at seventeen. Old men in the bad old days used to renounce, retire, 
take to religion, spend their time reading, thinking— thinkingr 

"Idiots, swine!" Bernard Marx was saying to himself, as he walked 
down the corridor to the lift. 

"Now— such is progress— the old men work, the old men copulate, 
the old men have no time, no leisure from pleasure, not a moment 
to sit down and think— or if ever by some unlucky chance such a 
crevice of time should yawn in the solid substance of their distractions, 
there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for half-holiday, 
a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, 
three for a dark eternity on the moon; returning whence they find 
themselves on the other side of the crevice, safe on the solid ground 
of daily labour and distraction, scampering from feely to feely, from 
girl to pneumatic girl, from Electro-magnetic Gold Course to. . ." 

. . . The group was now complete, the solidarity circle perfect and 
without flaw. Man, woman, man, in a ring of endless alternation round 
the table. Twelve of them ready to be made one, waiting to come 
together, to be fused, to lose their twelve separate identities in a 
larger being. 

The President stood up, made the sign of the T and, switching on 

14 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

the synthetic music, let loose the soft indefatigable beating of drums 
and a choir of instruments— near-wind and super-string— that plangently 
repeated and repeated the brief and unescapably haunting melody of 
the first Solidarity Hymn. Again, again— and it was not the ear that 
heard the pulsing rhythm, it was the midriff; the wail and clang 
of those recurring harmonies haunted, not the mind, but the yearning 
bowels of compassion. 

'Hie President made another sign of the T and sat down. The 
service had begun. The dedicated soma tablets were placed in the 
centre of the dinner table. The loving cup of strawberry ice-cream 
soma was passed from hand to hand and, with the formula, "I drink 
to my annihilation," twelves times quaffed. Then to the accompani- 
ment of the synthetic orchestra the First Solidarity Hymn was sung. 

Ford, we are twelve; oh, make us one, 
Like drops within the Social River; 

Oh, make us now together run 
As swiftly as thy shining Flivver. 

Twelve yearning stanzas. And then the loving cup was passed a 
second time. "I drink to the Greater Being" was now the formula. 
All drank. Tirelessly the music played. The drums beat. The crying 
and clashing of the harmonies were an obsession in the melted 
bowels. The Second Solidarity Hymn was sung. 

Come, Greater Being, Social Friend, 

Annihilating Twelve-in-One! 
We long to die, for when we end. 

Our larger Hfe has but begun. 

Again twelve stanzas. By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes 
shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence 
broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles. Even Bernard felt 
himself a little melted. When Morgana Rothschild turned and beamed 
at him, he did his best to beam back. But the eyebrow, that black 
two-in-one— alas, it was still there; he couldn't ignore it, couldn't how- 
ever hard he tried. The melting hadn't gone far enough. Perhaps if 
he had been sitting between Fifi and Joanna. . . . For the third time 
the loving cup went round. "I drink to the imminence of His Coming," 
said Morgana Rothschild, whose turn it happened to be to initiate 
the circular rite. Her tone was loud, exultant. She drank and passed 
the cup to Bernard. "I drink to the imminence of His Coming," 
he repeated, with a sincere attempt to feel that the coming was 
imminent; but the eyebrow continued to haunt him, and the Coming, 

Soma (( 15 

so far as he was concerned, was horribly remote. He drank and 
handed the cup to Clara Deterding. "It'll be a failure again/' he said 
to himself. "I know it will." But he went on doing his best to beam. 
The loving cup had made its circuit. Lifting his hand, the President 
gave a signal; the chorus broke out into the third Solidarity Hymn. 

Feel how the Greater Being comes! 

Rejoice and, in rejoicings, die! 
Melt in the music of the drums! 

For I am you and you are I. 

Chapter 4 


And Pharmacology 


Brainwashing was a subject to which Huxley returned again and 
again. The rise of Fascism in the ig^os occasioned a long essay 
from his pen, ''Writers and Readers,'' which includes a -passage on 
the latest chemical methods of mind-rape. Even after his positive 
experiences with psychedelic substances two decades later, he 
continued to warn against the phenomenon of "pharmacological 

. . . The Propagandists of the future will probably be chemists and 
physiologists as well as writers. A cachet containing three-quarters of 
a gramme of chloral and three-quarters of a milligram of scopolamine 
will produce in the person who swallows it a state of complete psy- 
chological malleability, akin to the state of a subject under deep hypno- 
sis. Any suggestion made to the patient while in this artificially induced 
trance penetrates to the very depths of the sub-conscious mind and 
may produce a permanent modification in the habitual modes of 
thought and feeling. In France, where the technique has been in experi- 
mental use for several years, it has been found that two or three courses 
of suggestion under chloral and scopolamine can change the habits even 
of the victims of alcohol and irrepressible sexual addictions. A pecu- 
liarity of the drug is that the amnesia which follows it is retrospective; 
the patient has no memories of a period which begins several hours 
before the drug's administrations. Catch a man unawares and give him 
a cachet; he will return to consciousness firmly believing all the sugges- 
tions you have made during his stupor and wholly unaware of the way 
this astonishing conversion has been effected. A system of propaganda, 
combining pharmacology with literature, should be completely and 
infallibly effective. The thought is extremely disquieting. . . . 

Chapter 5 


A Boundless Absence 


Huxley s novel Time Must Have a Stop contains a remarkable and 
prophetic description of a post-death state that strongly resembles 
ego-annihilation under a moderate to strong psychedelic. 

There Was No pain any longer, no more need to gasp for breath, 
and the tiled floor of the lavatory had ceased to be cold and hard. 

All sound had died away, and it was quite dark. But in the void 
and the silence there was still a kind of knowledge, a faint awareness. 

Awareness not of a name or person, not of things present, not of 
memories of the past, not even of here or there— for there was no 
place, only an existence whose single dimension was this knowledge 
of being ownerless and without possessions and alone. 

The awareness knew only itself, and itself only as the absence of 
something else. 

Knowledge reached out into the absence that was its object. Reached 
out into the darkness, further and further. Reached out into the 
silence, inimitably. There were no bounds. 

The knowledge knew itself as a boundless absence within another 
boundless absence, which was not even aware. 

It was the knowledge of an absence ever more total, more ex- 
cruciatingly a j5rivation. And it was aware with a kind of growing 
hunger, but a hunger for something that did not exist; for the 
knowledge was only of absence, of pure and absolute absence. 

Absence endured through ever-lengthening durations. Durations of 
restlessness. Durations of hunger. Durations that expanded and 
expanded as the frenzy of insatiability became more and more intense, 
that lengthened out into eternities of despair. 

i8 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

Eternities of the insatiable, despairing knowledge of absence within 
absence, everywhere, always, in an existence of only one dimension. . . . 

And then abruptly there was another dimension, and the everlasting 
ceased to be the everlasting. 

That within which the awareness of absence knew itself, that by 
which it was included and interpenetrated, was no longer an absence, 
but had become the presence of another awareness. The awareness of 
absence knew itself known. 

In the dark silence, in the void of all sensation, something began 
to know it. Very dimly at first, from immeasurably far away. But 
gradually the presence approached. The dimness of that other knowl- 
edge grew brighter. And suddenly the awareness had become an 
awareness of light. The light of the knowledge by which it was 

In the awareness that there was something other than absence the 
anxiety found appeasement, the hunger found satisfaction. 

Instead of privation there was this light. There was this knowledge 
of being known. And this knowledge of being known was a satisfied, 
even a joyful knowledge. 

Yes, there was joy in being known, in being thus included within 
a shining presence, in thus being interpenetrated by a shining presepce. 

And because the awareness was included by it, interpenetrated by 
it, there was identification with it. The awareness was not only 
known by it but knew with its knowledge. 

Knew, not absence, but the luminous denial of absence, not priva- 
tion, but bliss. 

There was hunger still. Hunger for yet more knowledge of a yet 
more total denial of an absence. 

Hunger, but also the satisfaction of hunger, also bliss. And then 
as the light increased, hunger again for profounder satisfactions, for 
a bliss more intense. 

Bliss and hunger, hunger and bliss. And through everlengthening 
durations the light kept brightening from beauty into beauty. And the 
joy of knowing, the joy of being known, increased with every incre- 
ment of that embracing and interpenetrating beauty. 

Brighter, brighter, through succeeding durations, that expanded at 
last into an eternity of joy. 

An eternity of radiant knowledge, of bliss unchanging in its ultimate 
intensity.. For ever, for ever. 

But gradually the unchanging began to change. 

The light increased its brightness. The presence became more urgent. 
The knowledge more exhaustive and complete. 

Under the impact of that intensification, the joyful awareness of 

A Boundless Absence ( ( 19 

being known, the joyful participation in that knowledge, was pinned 
against the limits of its bliss. Pinned with an increasing pressure until 
at last the limits began to give way and the awareness found itself 
beyond them, in another existence. An existence where the knowledge of 
being included within a shining presence had become a knowledge 
of being oppressed by an excess of light. Where that transfiguring 
interpenetration was apprehended as a force disruptive from within. 
Where the knowledge was so penetratingly luminous that the participa- 
tion in it was beyond the capacity of that which participated. 

The presence approached, the light grew brighter. 

Where there had been eternal bliss there was an immensely 
prolonged uneasiness, an immensely prolonged duration of pain and, 
longer and yet longer, as the pain increased, durations of intolerable 
anguish. The anguish of being forced, by participation, to know more 
than it was possible for the participant to know. The anguish of being 
crushed by the pressure of too much light— crushed into ever-increasing 
density and opacity. The anguish, simultaneously, of being broken 
and pulverized by the thrust of that interpenetrating knowledge from 
within. Disintegrated into smaller and smaller fragments, into mere 
dust, into atoms of mere nonentity. 

And this dust and the ever-increasing denseness of that opacity 
were apprehended by the knowledge in which there was participation 
as being hideous. Were judged and found repulsive, a privation of all 
beauty and reality. 

Inexorably, the presence approached, the light grew brighter. 

And with every increase of urgency, every intensification of that 
invading knowledge from without, that disruptive brightness thrusting 
from within, the agony increased, the dust and the compacted darkness 
became more shameful, were known, by participation, as the most 
hideous of absences. 

Shameful everlastingly in an eternity of shame and pain. 

But the light grew brighter, agonizingly brighter. 

The whole of existence was brightness— everything except this one 
small clot of untransparent absence, except these dispersed atoms 
of a nothingness that, by direct awareness, knew itself as opaque 
and separate, and at the same time, by an excruciating participation 
in the light knew itself as the most hideous and shameful of privations. 

Brightness beyond the limits of the possible, and then a yet intenser, 
nearer incandescence, pressing from without, disintegrating from 
within. And at the same time there was this other knowledge, ever 
more penetrating and complete, as the light grew brighter, of a 
clotting and a disintegration that seemed progressively more shameful 
as the durations lengthened out interminably. 

20 ) ) PART 1 / Precognition 

There was no escape, an eternity of no escape. And through ever 
longer, through ever-decelerating durations, from impossible to im- 
possible, the brightness increased, came more urgently and agonizingly 

Suddenly there was a new contingent knowledge, a conditional 
awareness that, if there were no participation in the brightness, half 
the agony would disappear. Tliere would be no perception of the 
ugliness of this clotted or disintegrated privation. There would only 
be an untransparent separateness, self-known as other than the invad- 
ing light. 

An unhappy dust of nothingness, a poor little harmless clot of mere 
privation, crushed from without, scattered from within, but still 
resisting, still refusing, in spite of the anguish, to give up its right 
to a separate existence. 

Abruptly, there was a new and overwhelming flash of participation 
in the light, in the agonizing knowledge that there was no such 
right as a right to separate existence, that this clotted and disintegrated 
absence was shameful and must be denied, must be annihilated— held 
up unflinchingly to the radiance of that invading knowledge and 
utterly annihilated, dissolved in the beauty of that impossible in 

For an immense duration the two awarenesses hung as though 
balanced— the knowledge that knew itself separate, knew its own right 
to separateness, and the knowledge that knew the shamefulness of 
absence and the necessity for its agonizing annihilation in the light. 

As though balanced, as though on a knife-edge between an im- 
possible intensity of beauty and an impossible intensity of pain and 
shame, between a hunger for opacity and separateness and absence and 
a hunger for a yet more total participation in the brightness. 

And then, after an eternity, there was a renewal of that contingent 
and conditional knowledge: "If there were no participation in the 
brightness, if there were no participation. . . ." 

And all at once there was no longer any participation. There was 
a self-knowledge of the clot and the disintegrated dust; and the light 
that knew these things was another knowledge. There was still the 
agonizing invasion from within and without, but no shame any more, 
only a resistance to attack, a defense of rights. 

By degrees the brightness began to lose some of its intensity, to 
recede, as it were, to grow less urgent. And suddenly there was a kind 
of eclipse. Between the insufferable light and the suffering awareness 
of the light as a presence alien to this clotted and disintegrated priva- 
tion, something abruptly intervened. Something in the nature of an 
image, something partaking of a memory. 

A Boundless Absence ( ( 21 

An image of things, a memory of things. Things related to things 
in some blessedly familiar way that could not yet be clearly apprehended. 

Almost completely eclipsed, the light lingered faintly and insignif- 
icantly on the fringes of awareness. At the centre were only things. 

Things still unrecognized, not fully imagined or remembered, without 
name or even form, but definitely there, definitely opaque. 

And now that the light had gone into eclipse and there was no 
participation, opacity was no more shameful. Density was happily 
aware of density, nothingness of untransparent nothingness. The 
knowledge was without bliss, but profoundly reassuring. 

And gradually the knowledge became clearer and the things known, 
more definite and familiar. More and more familiar, until awareness 
hovered on the verge of recognition. 

A clotted thing here, a disintegrated thing there. But what things? 
And what were these corresponding opacities by which they were 
being known? 

There was a vast duration of uncertainty, a long, long groping 
in a chaos of unmanifested possibilities. 

Then abruptly it was Eustace Bamack who was aware. Yes, this 
opacity was Eustace Bamack, this dance of agitated dust was Eustace 
Barnack. And the clot outside himself, this other opacity of which 
he had the image, was his cigar. He was remembering his Romeo and 
Juliet as it had slowly disintegrated into blue nothingness between his 
fingers. And with the memory of the cigar came the memory of a 
phrase: "Backwards and downwards." And then the memory of 

Words in what context? Laughter at whose expense? There was 
no answer. Just "backwards and downwards" and that stump of 
disintegrating opacity. "Backwards and downwards," and then the 
cachinnation, and the sudden glory. 

Far off, beyond the image of that brown slobbered cylinder of 
tobacco, beyond the repetition of those three words and the accom- 
panying laughter the brightness lingered, like a menace. But in his 
joy at having found again this memory of things, this knowledge 
of an identity remembering, Eustace Barnack had all but ceased to 
be aware of its existence. 

Chapter 6 


Downward Transcendence 


In an epilogue to The Devils of Loudun, his historical account of 
mass hysteria and exorcism in a ijth-century French convent, 
Huxley drew on the ideas of Philippe de Felice in Foules en 
Delire, Ecstases Collectives, that there were three kinds of self- 
transcendence: downward, upward, and horizontal. Drug-taking, 
elemental sexuality, and herd poisoning were avenues toward 
the first category. Chemical methods of self-transcendence gave 
at best only momentary revelation and at considerable cost. After 
taking mescalin, however, he wrote (to Osmond) of his belief 
that this drug "can be used to raise the horizontal self-transcen- 
dence which goes on within purposive groups . . . so that it 
becomes an upward transcendence. . . ." 

Without An Understanding of man's deep-seated urge to self- 
transcendence, of his very natural reluctance to take the hard, ascending 
way, and his search for some bogus liberation either below or to one 
side of his personality, we cannot hope to make sense of our own 
particular period of history or indeed of history in general, of life as 
it was lived in the past and as it is lived today. For this reason I 
propose to discuss some of the more common Grace-substitutes, into 
which and by means of which men and women have tried to escape 
from the tormenting consciousness of being merely themselves. 

In France there is now one retailer of alcohol to every hundred 
inhabitants, more or less. In the United States there are probably at 
least a million desperate alcoholics, besides a much larger nuinber 
of very heavy drinkers whose disease has not yet become mortal. 
Regarding the consumption of intoxicants in the past we have no 

Downward Transcendence ( ( 23 

precise or statistical knowledge. In Western Europe, among the 
Celts and Teutons, and throughout medieval and early modern times, 
the individual intake of alcohol was probably even greater than it 
is today. On the many occasions when we drink tea, or coffee, or 
soda pop, our ancestors refreshed themselves with wine, beer, mead 
and, in later centuries, with gin, brandy and usquebaugh. Tlie regular 
drinking of water was a penance imposed on wrongdoers, or accepted 
by the religious, along with occasional vegetarianism, as a very severe 
mortification. Not to drink an intoxicant was an eccentricity sufficiently 
remarkable to call for comment and the using of a more or less dis- 
paraging nickname. Hence such patronymics as the Italian Bevilacqua, 
the French Boileau and the English Drinkwater. 

Alcohol is but one of the many drugs employed by human beings 
as avenues of escape from the insulated self. Of the natural narcotics, 
stimulants and hallucinators there is, I believe, not a single one whose 
properties have not been known from time immemorial. Modern 
research has given us a host of brand new synthetics; but in regard 
to the natural poisons it has merely developed better methods of 
extracting, concentrating and recombining those already known. From 
poppy to curare, from Andean coca to Indian hemp and Siberian 
agaric, every plant or bush or fungus capable, when ingested, of 
stupefying or exciting or evoking visions, has long since been discovered 
and systematically employed. The fact is strangely significant; for it 
seems to prove that, always and everywhere, human beings have felt 
the radical inadequacy of their personal existence, the misery of being 
their insulated selves and not something else, something wider, 
something in Wordsworthian phrase, "far more deeply interfused." 
Exploring the world around him, primitive man evidently "tried all 
things and held fast to that which was good." For the purpose of self- 
preservation the good is every edible fruit and leaf, every wholesome 
seed, root and nut. But in another context— the context of self-dissatis- 
faction and the urge to self-transcendence— the good is everything in 
nature by means of which the quality of individual consciousness can 
be changed. Such drug-induced changes may be manifestly for the 
worse, may be at the price of present discomfort and future addiction, 
degeneration and premature death. All this is of no moment. What 
matters is the awareness, if only for an hour or two, if only for a few 
minutes, of being someone or, more often, something other than the 
insulated self. "I live, yet not I, but wine or opium or peyotl or hashish 
liveth in me." To go beyond the limits of the insulated ego is such a 
liberation that, even when self-transcendence is through nausea into 
frenzy, through cramps into hallucinations and coma, the drug-induced 
experience has been regarded by primitives and even by the highly 

24 ; ) PART 1 / Precognition 

civilized as intrinsically divine. Ecstasy through intoxication is still an 
essential part of the religion of many African, South American and 
Polynesian peoples. It was once, as the surviving documents clearly 
prove, a no less essential part of the religion of the Celts, the Teutons, 
the Greeks, the peoples of the Middle East and the Aryan conquerors 
of India. It is not merely that "beer does more than Milton can to 
justify God's \\'ays to man." Beer is the god. Among the Celts, Saba- 
zius was the devine name given to the felt alienation of being dead 
drunk on ale. Further to the south, Dionysos was, among other things, 
the supernatural objectification of the psychophysical effects of too 
much wine. In Vedic mythology, Indra was the god of that now 
unidentifiable drug called soma. Hero, slayer of dragons, he was the 
magnified projection upon heaven of the strange and glorious other- 
ness experienced by the intoxicated. Made one with the drug, he be- 
comes, as Soma-Indra, the source of immortahty, the mediator between 
the human and the divine. 

In modern times beer and the other toxic short cuts to self-tran- 
scendence are no longer officially worshipped as gods. Theory has 
undergone a change, but not practice; for in practice millions upon 
millions of civilized men and women continue to pay their devotions, 
not to the liberating and transfiguring Spirit, but to alcohol, to hash- 
ish, to opium and its derivatives, to the barbiturates, and the other 
synthetic additions to the age-old catalogue of poisons capable of 
causing self-transcendence. In every case, of course, what seems a god 
is actually a devil, what seems a liberation is in fact an enslavement. 
The self-transcendence is invariably downward into the less than hu- 
man, the lower than personal. . . . 

To what extent, and in what circumstances, it is possible for a man to 
make use of the descending road as a way to spiritual self-transcend- 
ence? At first sight it would seem obvious that the way down is not 
and can never be the way up. But in the realm of existence matters 
are not quite so simple as they are in our beautifully tidy world of 
words. In actual life a downward movement may sometimes be made 
the beginning of an ascent. When the shell of the ego has been 
cracked and there begins to be a consciousness of the subliminal and 
physiological othernesses underlying personality, it sometimes happens 
that we catch a glimpse, fleeting but apocalyptic, of that other Other- 
ness, which is the Ground of all being. So long as we are confined 
within our insulated selfhood, we remain unaware of the various not- 
selves with which we are associated— the organic not-self, the subcon- 
scious not-self, the collective not-self of the psychic medium in which 

Downwctrd Transcendence ( ( 25 

all our thinking and feeling have their existence, and the immanent 
and transcendent not-self of the Spirit. Any escape, even by a descend- 
ing road, out of insulated selfhood makes possible at least a momen- 
tary awareness of the not-self on every level, including the highest. 
William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, gives instances 
of "anaesthetic revelations," ^ following the inhalation of laughing gas. 
Similar theophanies are sometimes experienced by alcoholics, and 
there are probably moments in the course of intoxication by almost 
any drug, when awareness of a not-self superior to the disintegrating 
ego becomes briefly possible. But these occasional flashes of revela- 
tion are bought at an enormous price. For the drug-taker, the moment 
of spiritual awareness (if it comes at all) gives place very soon to 
subhuman stupor, frenzy or hallucination, followed by dismal hang- 
overs and, in the long run, by a permanent and fatal impairment of 
bodily health and mental power. Very occasionally a single "anaes- 
thetic revelation" may act, like any other theophany, to incite its 
recipient to an effort of self-transformation and upward self-tran- 
scendence. But the fact that such a thing sometimes happens can 
never justify the employment of chemical methods of self-transcend- 
ence. This is a descending road and most of those who take it will 
come to a state of degradation, where periods of subhuman ecstasy 
alternate with periods of conscious selfhood so wretched that any 
escape, even if it be into the slow suicide of drug addiction, will seem 
preferable to being a person. 

1 Benjamin Blood coined the term "anaesthetic revelation" in 1874. 



Chapter 7 



Dr. Humphry Osmond was a research psychiatrist studying the 
relationship between the mescalin experience and schizophrenia 
at the University of Saskatchewan when he and Huxley first met. 
Huxley's invitation to Dr. Osmond and his anticipation of taking 
mescalin are documented in the following letters. 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 623] 

j^o N. Kings Rd., 
Los Angeles 46, Cal. 
10 April, 1953 
Dear Dr. Osmond, 

Thank you for your interesting letter and accompanying article, and 
for the very kind and understanding things you say of my Devils. It 
looks as though the most satisfactory working hypothesis about the hu- 
man mind must follow, to some extent, the Bergsonian model, in which 
the brain with its associated normal self, acts as a utilitarian device 
for limiting, and making selections from, the enormous possible world 
of consciousness, and for canalizing experience into biologically profit- 
able channels. Disease, mescaline, emotional shock, aesthetic experi- 
ence and mystical enhghtenment have the power, each in its different 
way and in varying degrees, to inhibit the functions of the normal self 
and its ordinary brain activity, thus permitting the "other world" to 
rise into consciousness. The basic problem of education is. How to 
make the best of both worlds— the world of biological utility and com- 
mon sense, and the world of unlimited experience underlying it. I sus- 

30 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

pect that the complete solution of the problem can come only to 
those who have learned to establish themselves in the third and ulti- 
mate world of 'the spirit', the world which subtends and interpenetrates 
both of the other worlds. But short of this ultimate solution, there 
may be partial solutions, by means of which the growing child may 
be taught to preserve his "intimations of immortality" into adult life. 
Under the current dispensation the vast majority of individuals lose, 
in the course of education, all the openness to inspiration, all the 
capacity to be aware of other things than those enumerated in the 
Sears-Roebuck catalogue which constitutes the conventionally "real" 
world. That this is not the necessary and inevitable price extorted for 
biological survival and civilized efficiency is demonstrated by the 
existence of the few men and women who retain their contact with 
the other world, even while going about their business in this. Is it 
too much to hope that a system of education may some day be de- 
vised, which shall give results, in terms of human development, com- 
mensurate with the time, money, energy and devotion expended? In 
such a system of education it may be that mescaline or some other 
chemical substance may play a part by making it possible for young 
people to 'taste and see' what they have learned about at second 
hand, or directly but at a lower level of intensity, in the writings of 
the religious, or the works of poets, painters and musicians. 

I hope very much that there may be a chance of seeing you in these 
parts during the Psychiatric Congress in May. One of the oddest fish 

you \\'ill meet at the congress will be a friend of ours. Dr. [ ], who 

is perhaps the greatest living virtuoso in hypnosis. (Incidentally, for 
some people at least, deep hypnotic trance is a way that leads into 
the other world— a less dramatic way than that of mescaline inasmuch 
as the experiences are entirely inward and do not associate themselves 
with sensory perceptions and the character of things and people 'out 
there,' but still very definitely a way.) If you are coming along to 
the meeting, we can provide a bed and bath— but unfortunately the 
accommodation is too small for more than one. You will be free to 
come and go as it suits you, and there will always be something to 
eat— though it may be a bit sketchy on the days when we don't have 
a cook. In any case I look forward to seeing you and to the opportunity 
of discussing at greater length some of the problems raised in your 
letter and the articles by Dr. Smythies and yourself. 

Yours sincerely^ 
Aldous Huxley 

Letters ( ( 31 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 624] 

y^o N. Kings Rd., 
L A ^6, Cat. 
19 April, 1953 
Dear Dr. Osmond, 

Good! We shall expect you on the third. May I suggest that you take 
the air line bus to the Holly^vood Roosevelt Hotel, from which we 
can come and retrieve you— or from which it is easy to take a cab. Go- 
ing to meet planes at the air port has become such a nightmare, with 
the increase of traffic, that my wife, who drives the car, begs everyone 
to come as far as the Roosevelt— which is quicker for the traveller as 
well as easier for the meeter. 

Hoffmann La Roche has told my young doctor friend that they 
must send to Switzerland for a supply of mescaline— so it may be 
weeks before it get here. Meanwhile do you have any of the stuff on 
hand? If so I hope you can bring a little; for I am eager to make the 
experiment and would feel particularly happy to do so under the 
supervision of an experienced investigator like yourself. 

Yours very sincerely, 
Aldous Huxley 

Chapter 8 


May Morning In Hollywood 


Here Dr. Osmond recounts "that improbable journey that took 
him to Los Angeles with a dose (0.4 g) of mescalin for Huxley^ 
whom he guided on the trip immortalized in Doors of Percep- 
tion. The classic anxieties of the guide are humorously expressed: 
though Aldous "seemed like an ideal subject" Osmond momen- 
tarily feared he would become known as "the man who drove 
Aldous Huxley mad." Osmond remained one of Huxley's closest 
friends during his last decade; many of Huxley's most important 
letters pertaining to psychedelics are addressed to him. 

It Is Eleven years now since I made that improbable journey to 
Hollywood. I was working in a mental hospital on the Canadian 
Prairies over 2,000 miles away. Although I had kept a copy of Aldous 
Huxley's splendid anthology Texts and Pretexts by me during the 
London blitz, on Atlantic convoys in a destroyer escort, and it still 
goes with me on my wanderings, I had never expected to meet its 
formidable author. Indeed, had I thought about it, I would have 
doubted whether we would have much in common, for then as now, 
my main interest and pre-occupation was the care, treatment and 
betterment of patients suffering from schizophrenia. 

Dr. John Smythies^ and I had collaborated in a piece for the Hibbert 
Journal^ on the present state of psychological medicine. Aldous read 
it; enjoyed it; and sent us a characteristically friendly and encouraging 

^ An associate of Dr. Osmond and Dr. Abram Hofler in schizophrenia research 
at the Saskatchewan Hospital, in Weybum. 

^Hibbert J., L.I., 2 (Jan. 1953), a summary of their report, "Schizophrenia: 
A New Approach," /. Mental Sci., 98, (April, 1952). 

May Morning in Hollywood ( ( 53 

letter written in his bold black hand that sloped slightly across the 
paper. He added that he hoped we would visit him when we were 
next in California. Neither John nor I were sufficiently acclimatized 
to North America to feel that 2,000-3,000 miles was not a particular 
barrier to meeting; that was before the jet plane had eroded our spatial 
sense entirely. 

However, within about a month of that first letter, I was on my 
way to Cahfornia to be the guest of Aldous and Maria Huxley. I had 
been sent quite unexpectedly to attend the American Psychiatric 
Association meeting then being held in Los Angeles. I remember 
feeling both a little embarrassed and proud when I said that I would 
not need an hotel because I should be staying with them. 

Maria told me how it came about. One morning at breakfast, 
Aldous looked up from his mail and said, "Let's ask this fellow 
Osmond to stay." Maria was surprised because Aldous rarely suggested 
asking anyone to stay and she had never heard of "this fellow." Aldous 
enlightened her, "He's a Canadian psychiatrist who works with mes- 
calin." Maria rephed, "But he may have a beard and we may not 
like him." Aldous thought for a bit, and said, "If we don't like him 
we can always be out." Maria did not feel this was a good solution. 
However, Aldous's invitation indicated that, although I would be 
very welcome to stay, the nature of his work made it necessary for 
both of them to be out a great deal. I was intrigued, especially since 
he stated that he was interested in our work and might even become 
a subject if that were possible. I was also apprehensive, but my wife 
pointed out, "It will only be for a few days, and you can always be 
kept late by an A.P.A. session." 

The invitation was an honour and an opportunity. I was most 
curious to meet this notable man whose ideas I had criticized from 
a safe distance, but I am not a literary person and found the prospect 
daunting. I reached the Huxleys' home on Kings Road not far from 
Sunset Boulevard, tired and worried. I had not been able to find out 
about the rules of bringing mescalin into the United States. When I 
discovered them some years later I realized I had reason to be con- 
cerned. I also felt shy and awkward; I doubted whether I could sus- 
tain the sort of talk to which I supposed the Huxleys were used. 

Maria put me at ease immediately. She was not at all formidable. 
On her part, she was relieved that I was beardless. She said: "I knew 
that you and Aldous, being Englishmen, would get along well." To 
Maria, Englishmen were largely incomprehensible except to each 

Aldous glided towards me from the cool darkness of the house into 
the sunshine of the front porch. He seemed to be suspended a fraction 

34 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

of an inch above the ground hke one of Blake's allegorical figures. He 
was very tall. His head was massive, finely shaped, with a splendid 
brow. His gaze, from his better eye, was keen and piercing, but seemed 
to be focused a little above and below me. His handshake was sketchy 
and uncertain, as if he did not enjoy the custom, and this was indeed 
so, for the thin-skinned, lightly built, slender people whom Sheldon 
calls cerebrotonic do not relish physical contact overmuch. His voice 
was clear and beautifully modulated with a penetrating, almost bird- 
like, quality of which I became fully aware a few days later at the 
A.P.A. meeting. We were standing in the foyer outside the main hall 
when Aldous's voice cut through the hubbub like a knife-blade, "But 
Humphry, how incredible it is in a Marxist country like this. . ." 
It was 1953 at the height of the McCarthy era. Marxist was a diabol- 
ical word in the city of the angels. 

What impressed me from the start and continued to do so through 
the years of our friendship was the kindness and tolerance of this man, 
whose writings had sometimes led me to suppose that he would be 
disillusioned, cynical and even savage. 

It took some time to understand that Bertie meant Bertrand Rus- 
sell, that Tom Eliot was T. S. Eliot, and Lawrence was, of course, 
D. H. Maria told me that when she was typing the manuscript of 
Lady Chatterley, Lawrence came to her one day distressed and em- 
barrassed. He blurted out, ''Maria, you must never use that word 
again." Maria asked what this forbidden word might be and Lawrence 
with reluctance spoke the now familiar four-letter word. "But Law- 
rence," she protested, "you're always using it in Lady Chatterley. 
Besides it is a very good word." Lawrence explained gently that she 
must no longer use the word because, "It would shock Aldous. Tt is 
not a good word at all, and anyway it would never do." Maria was 
puzzled because Aldous had not seemed in the least distressed by the 
word, but since Lawrence clearly was, she stopped using it. They both 
always spoke very warmly of Lawrence. 

I had expected Aldous to be well informed, but from the first meet- 
ing to our final one in Stockholm last year, I never ceased to be 
astounded and delighted by the range, boldness, flexibility and sheer 
playfulness of his splendid mind. When he was at ease he would toss 
ideas about with the grace, elegance and sense of fun that a trained 
dolphin has playing with a ball. Whether we were at a scientific meet- 
ing, sight-seeing in New York, visiting the great burying-ground of 
Forest Lawn, walking on the Surrey Commons which he loved so 
much, bowling along the Mohave desert, threading our way towards 
the Athenaeum where, he said, "You can hardly hear yourself think 
for the whine of political, academic and ecclesiastical axes being 

May Morning in Hollywood ( ( 35 

ground/' or on a shopping expedition to Ohrbach's, Aldous would be 
discussing both serious and trivial matters with his immense fund of 
expert knowledge. He loved a good gossip, on every variety of subject 
—the latest scientific discovery, theological principles, books, paint- 
ings, new developments in sewage treatment, Utopias, the water-supply 
system of Los Angeles (a particular favourite of his), the effect of 
mass-produced clothing on social and political systems, parapsychology, 
or the future of megalopolis— always provided that it gave him occa- 
sion to reflect and comment upon the infinite strangeness of life. Al- 
though he was very well informed he was always learning more, and 
the best tribute one could get was his delighted, "How absolutely 

Those who did not know him, or were not well acquainted with the 
particular subject he was discussing, might be misled into supposing 
that his knowledge was superficial, for he wore his great learning 
lightly and was never pompous. He looked upon himself as an edu- 
cated man doing his best to keep up with the times in which he lived, • 
and thought it was natural that he should do so. I think he was well 
aware that he was immensely intelligent and gifted, but he did not 
consider this something for pride or conceit. What he was proud of 
was that he could earn his living by his pen, an occupation which he 
enjoyed and for which he had a craftsman's love and concern. He 
looked upon himself as a writer who should be able to communicate 
with all kinds of people, not only the sophisticated or the erudite. He 
never felt it beneath him to write for the films or popular magazines. 
At one time he was planning to turn Brave New World into a musical 
because he thought its ideas would get across better that way. He 
wrote for Playboy and Daedalus, for Life and Encounter, and consid- 
ered they were equally acceptable channels of communicating with 
people. He wrote to and enjoyed meeting interesting men and women 
everywhere and seemed equally at home ^^'ith sages, scientists, million- 
aires, gurus, playwrights and administrators as with the crankiest and 
oddest people. And they all seemed to find enormous enjoyment in 
his critical, detached, wise, yet kindly and enthusiastic intelligence. 

I took Aldous to one of the main sessions of the conference. He sat 
there paying the keenest attention, crossing himself devoutly every 
time Freud's name was mentioned. In Brave New World, the Saviour 
was called "Our Ford," or as certain people for some unexplained 
reason preferred to call him, "Our Freud." Here was a congregation, 
including many pious Freudians, so Aldous was kept busy. Luckily 
my psychiatric colleagues were so absorbed by the incantations that 
no one noticed him. 

When the meeting ended, mescalin came up, for I had admitted 

36 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

bringing some with me. Maria assured me that Aldous was looking 
forward to taking it, for she had guessed correctly that "you English- 
men" had avoided discussing the matter. Their family doctor was not 
opposed. Aldous had no liver disease. In spite of remarks that I some- 
times heard about "unfortunate mystical trends in his later years," I 
found him, both then and subsequently, shrewd, matter-of-fact and to 
the point; but of course the history of mysticism, in spite of popular no- 
tions to the contrary, concerns large numbers of practical, hard-headed 
and socially effective people. 

Aldous had got a dictaphone for the occasion. I could see no decent 
way out and we agreed to do the experiment. I had a restless night. 
Next morning, as I stirred the water and watched the silvery white 
mescalin crystals swirling down and dissolving with a slightly oily 
slick, I wondered whether it would be enough or too much. It was a 
delicious May morning in Hollywood, no hint of smog to make the 
eyes smart, not too hot. Yet I was uneasy. Aldous and Maria would 
be sad if it did not work, but what if it worked too well? Should I 
cut the dose in half? The setting could hardly have been better, 
Aldous seemed an ideal subject, Maria eminently sensible, and we 
had all taken to each other, which was very important for a good 
experience; but I did not relish the possibility, however remote, of 
being the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad. My fears were ground- 
less. The bitter chemical did not work as quickly as Aldous had rather 
impatiently expected. It slowly etched away the patina of conceptual 
thinking; the doors of perception were cleansed, and Aldous perceived 
things with less interference from his enormous rationalizing brain. 
Within two and a half hours I could see that it was acting and after 
three I knew that all would go well. Aldous and Maria were greatly 
pleased. So was I, as well as being much relieved. 

Three days later I flew back to Canada to find the prairies gripped 
in a late blizzard. I had enjoyed myself and looked forward to Aldous's 
report, which he worked up into a widely known hook— The Doors of 
Perception. From then on we usually saw each other at least once a 
year and were always writing. I have by me now his last letter, written 
on October 15, 1963. He was discussing the outline of a study of 
human potential upon which we were jointly engaged. It is character- 
istic of him. . . "But being like the old man of Thermopylae who 
never does anything properly I can't lay my hands on the carbon of 
it." The letter ends, "I feel I shall never again be good for anything, 
but I hope and think this state of affiairs will pass in due course (it 
will pass— the only motto good for every human situation, good or 

Aldous was keenly interested in the relationship between physique 

May Morning in Hollywood ( ( 57 

and temperament and was a close friend of Dr. William Sheldon, 
one of the notable pioneers in this field. Through him I got to know 
Sheldon, who told me that Aldous was one of the very few people 
who really understood what he was getting at. On one of our shop- 
ping expeditions in Ohrbach's, Los Angeles, Aldous introduced me to 
the art of escalator somatotyping. People on escalators are unselfcon- 
scious, unaware of scrutiny and at their ease. As we were wafted by 
them passing in the opposite direction, Aldous would call out, "Hum- 
phry, did you see that marvellously somatotonic woman with the 
Aztec features?" He himself illustrated the limitations imposed by 
constitution on even the liveliest imagination when he said, "You 
know, I can't imagine what it would be like to be Joe Louis." I had 
assumed that with his deep understanding of temperament he would 
have had little difficulty in entering the great boxer's world. Tliis is a 
world in which everything focuses upon those few highly ritualized 
and timeless moments in the ring; moments of truth for which a great 
boxer lives and during which he is truly alive. But to Aldous, lightly 
boned, poorly muscled, linear, slender and cerebrotonic, with his sensi- 
tivity to pain and awareness of the possibility of injury, that anyone 
could possibly enjoy watching or participating in this bone-smashing, 
brain-jarring combat, with its bruising impact of bodies, seemed in- 

Not long after my second visit to Los Angeles Maria died. Knowing 
that her time was short, she told me how worried she was about 
Aldous; but in the event he proved more resourceful and adaptable 
than she and most of his friends had expected. 

He introduced me to many people to whom he thought our work 
would be interesting and from these introductions there have been 
many developments. For instance, that which he gave me to Mrs. 
Eileen Garrett^ has resulted in a variety of studies relating parapsy- 
chology and psychopharmacology. And from this again there have 
been exciting new developments in hypnosis, a favourite subject of 
Aldous's. And with his brother Julian,^ my colleague Professor Abram 
Hoffer and I have been exploring some of the genetic advantages of 
being schizophrenic. In our work with psychedelics (mind-manifesting 
or mind-revealing substances) Aldous advocated a cautious boldness, 
advising the explorers to do good stealthily, and to avoid publicity. 
Unfortunately his counsel was not always taken. 

When we met in New York he usually dashed into a gallery, and 
flitted from picture to picture peering through his little spyglass, and 

1 President of the Parapsychology Foundation. 

2 Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975), the famed zoologist, was an older brother of 

38 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

always seeing things which I, with my much better sight, had never 

It was when he was writing Island that I learnt about the cancer 
that was to kill him. That was in November i960, the day of the 
Presidential election, and I had flown up to see him in Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, where he was lecturing. He looked worn, tired, and 
pale. He told me that he had had a cancer of the tongue, but that his 
doctor thought it had a good chance of responding to treatment 
with radium needles. He had considered surgery, but learning that it 
would almost certainly interfere with his speech, had decided against 
it. He asked me not to discuss this with other members of his family 
because they would worry and it would not help him. He then dis- 
missed the matter and read me the chapter from Island dealing with 
the Moksha medicine, the use of psychedelics for helping people pre- 
pare themselves to change in a changing world, teaching them how 
to learn to change for the better and how to prepare themselves for 
dying. It is packed with his finest ideas, \\'hich will repay much study 
and consideration, and which have still to be fully appreciated. 

Early in 1961, he and Laura lost their new home in a furious brush 
fire, and all his possessions, including his books and papers, were 
burned. It was a sort of death, a stripping away of everything. As he 
said later, "I took it as a sign that the grim reaper was having a good 
look at me." Yet he weathered this too, and on his visits to England 
in 1961 and 1962, although lath-thin, so that you felt a gust of wind 
would blow him away, he was wonderfully lively. 

Only a year before he died he stood outside the house where he 
was born in Charterhouse School in Surrey, and was touched and sur- 
prised that the present owner recognized him and invited him in. He 
found it hard to be a public figure and to take himself seriously as a 
great man. He told me it was uncomfortable being eulogized because 
he either felt like laughing or looking round to get a glimpse of the 
admirable person for whom the nice speeches were being made. He 
did, however, enjoy his reception in Rio de Janeiro, where every day 
of his stay one of the papers had a column headed O Sabio—The 
Sage. "It is the only place in the world where anyone wants to read a 
literary gent's opinion about things in general day after day." While 
he found Brasilia tiring and rather inhuman, the high point of this 
visit was his flight up the Amazon to see a tribe of stone age Indians. 
He was welcomed by one of the splendid anthropologist officers of 
the Indian Service, who hearing the name Huxley asked, "Sir Julian?" 
and on being told, "No, Aldous," burst into tears of joy. I think he 
esteemed no tribute higher than this one. 

Last August in Stockholm at the World Academy, he was transpar- 

May Morning in Hollywood ( ( 39 

ently pale and had been unsure whether he could come at all. The 
cancer had returned but had been beaten back again for the while. 
Yet he worked zealously to persuade members of the Academy to study 
human potential. Having succeeded, he set to and prepared an outline. 
I sat with him while he was completing this in his hotel room. He was 
engrossed in his task. Watching him I felt that I might never see him 
again, and so took some pictures of the master craftsman at work. For 
that deceptively easy conversational style was never accomplished 
without much careful revision. He told me that it was no easier to 
write now than it had been twenty-five years ago. He knew of no 
short-cuts to good writing except repeated rewriting. I was uneasy 
when we parted, but tried to ignore my misgivings. He was to visit me 
in Princeton during October, which was only two months away. And 
in our last few minutes together, we were discussing who should be 
invited to participate in the new work. But when October came he 
was too ill to travel. The borrowed time gained by x-ray treatment 
had run out and soon my dear friend, the wise and gentle triphibian, 
for that was his own definition of man, was no more. 

Chapter 9 



The following group of letters written after Huxley s first mesca- 
lin experiment display his considerable enthusiasm ("without 
question the most extraordinary and significant experience this 
side of the Beatific Vision") and escalating interest in the areas 
of parapsychology, mental illness, visionary experience, and the 
politics of drug research. The long essay referred to is, of course. 
The Doors of Perception, which he wrote during the summer 
months after first taking a long automobile journey across the 
western United States. 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 631] 

y^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles 46, California 
21 June, 1953 
Dear Humphry, 

Our trip ended only yesterday. Hence the long delay in acknowledging 
your letter. I will certainly talk to Hutchins about your project^ when 
I have a good opportunity. Meanwhile I think it might be a good 
thing if you were to set forth in a couple of typewritten pages the 
nature of your project. Touch on the potential importance of mes- 
calin studies from a purely medical point of view,* and then go on to 
their importance in the more generalized fields of psychology, philos- 

^ Project: the recording of mescalin interviews with fifty to a hundred people 
of outstanding abilities in various fields. This was outlined by Osmond and his 
colleague Dr. Abram Hoffer together with a project, already under way, of strictly 
pharmacological research into mind-affecting drugs. [Smith's note] 

Letters ( ( 41 

ophy, theory of knowledge. Point out that the available material is 
still ridiculously small, that greater numbers of cases are needed to 
determine how people of different physiques and temperaments react 
to the drug. E.g. do Galtonian visualizers react in a different way 
from non-visualizers. (I am sure they must. I am a non-visualizer, 
and got very little in the way of imagery. And yet visions are reported 
by many of those who have taken the stuff.) Again, is there any 
marked difference between the average reactions of extreme cerebro- 
tonics, viscerotonics and somatotonics? Do people with a pronounced 
musical gift get auditory counterparts of the visions and transfigura- 
tions of the external world experienced by others? How are pure 
mathematicians and professional philosophers affected? (It would be 
interesting to try it out on a logical positivist. Would he, like Thomas 
Aquinas towards the end of his life, when he had been vouchsafed an 
experience of 'infused contemplation,' say that all his philosophy 
was as straw and chaff, and refuse to go on with his intellectualizing?) 
Armed with this summary of a project, and also with my own essay on 
the subject [The Doors of Perception] (which promises to turn into 
quite a long-drawn affair, owing to the number of questions it raises, 
and the different kinds of light it sheds, within so many fields), I will 
go to Hutchins and try to arouse his interest. I think it quite likely 
he might want to take the stuff himself; and as there are a number of 
people of diverse idiosyncrasies who have expressed, or will certainly 
express, a wish to try the experiment, might it not be possible to 
arrange for you or John Smythies to come here, later on, for a few 
days in order to conduct the investigation? Interested parties could 
put up travelling expenses, and accommodation could be found with 
us, or if it were necessary to go to Pasadena to try it on Ford Founda- 
tioneers or Caltech physicists, with Hutchins or someone else. If you 
think this idea feasible, let me know and I will start preparing the 
ground. Meanwhile let me have your summary. When my essay is 
done I will send it to you. 

Maria joins me in sending all good wishes to yourself and the 
family. Yours, 

Aldous H. 

* Ford doesn't touch medicine, but is interested in the humanities 
and would finance the project as a contribution to applied philosophy. 
Still, it is good to mention the medical angle— make them feel they 
are killing two birds with one stone. 

^2 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

TO HAROLD RAYMOND' [smith 632] 

j^o North Kings Rd., 
Los Angeles ^6, Col. 
21 ]une, 1953 
My Dear Harold, 

We returned yesterday from a three \\'eeks' tour through the North- 
west to find your letter about Penguin. I am inclined to agree with 
you that this is a desirable move; so let us decide to go ahead with it. 
The volume of essays on which I have been working sporadically for 
some time is getting on pretty well, and I hope to have the whole 
collection ready by the autumn. I am working at the moment on 
what promises to be a very long essay on an experience with mescalin, 
which I had this May, when an extremely able young English psy- 
chiatrist now working in Canada, with a group of equally enterprising 
young doctors and bio-chemists, on the problem of schizophrenia, 
came to stay with us. You have probably read accounts of the mescalin 
experience— by Havelock Ellis, for example, by Weir Mitchell;^ and 
there have been many others. It is without any question the most 
extraordinary and significant experience available to human beings 
this side of the Beatific Vision; and it opens up a host of philosophi- 
cal problems, throws intense light and raises all manner of questions 
in the fields of aesthetics, religion, theory of knowledge. The most 
extraordinary fact about mescalin— the active principle in the peyotl 
cactus used by the North American Indians in their religious ceremo- 
nies, and now synthesized— is that it is almost completely non-toxic. 
No unpleasant physical results, except a faint seasickish feeling at the 
beginning, no lowering of intellectual capacity, and absolutely no 
hangover— just transformation of consciousness so that one knows 
exactly what Blake meant when he said, "If the doors of perception 
were cleansed, ever}'thing would appear as it is, infinite and holy." 
The schizophrenic gets this kind of consciousness sometimes; but since 
he starts with fear and since the fact of not kno^^■ing when and how he 
is to emerge from this condition of changed consciousness tends to 
increase that fear, his commonest experiences are of an Other World, 
not heavenly but infernal and purgatorial. \\^hat these young men in 

- Huxley's editor at Chatto & Windus. 

3 Ellis and Mitchell: see the extract from The Doors of Perception. 

Letters (( 43 

Canada are on the track of is immensely important— a bio-chemical 
element in the causation of schizophrenia. Mescalin and the newly 
isolated drug, lysergic acid, which has the same effect, are very close, 
chemically speaking, to adrenalin. And one of the breakdown prod- 
ucts of adrenalin, adrenochrome, which can occur within the body, 
can produce, when isolated, experiences closely akin to those produced 
by mescalin. So perhaps they may be getting close to a cure or prevent- 
ative of this great modern plague. Who knows? 
Our love to you both. 


TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 642; 

j^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles ^6, California 
31 October, 1953 
Dear Humphry, 

. . . Thank you for the copy of Macleans. The article was most inter- 
esting."^ Does lysergic acid always produce these terrifying results? Or 
did you give your guinea pig an extra large dose? Or, alternatively, 
did he start with a mild neurosis which was exaggerated out of all 
recognition? Whatever the answer, the inexplicable fact remains the 
nature of the visions. Who invents these astounding things? And 
why should the not-I who does the inventing hit on precisely this 
kind of thing? The jewels and architectures seem to be almost specific 
—a regular symptom of the mescalin experience. Does this, I wonder, 
have anything to do with the phantasies of the Arabian Nights and 
other fairy stories? Tlie jewelled palaces are partly, no doubt, wish 
fulfilments— the opposite of ever}day experience. But they may also 
be actual chases vues— items in the ordinary landscape of certain 
kinds of people. It would be interesting to know whether something 
of the kind would be seen by children who know nothing about 
jewels, or by primitives, to whom diamonds, rubies etc. mean noth- 
ing. . . . 


* Article by Sidney Katz in Maclean's Magazine 

Chapter 10 


The Doors of Perception 


The publication of this slim volume, in the midst of the psychic 
and intellectual wasteland of the Eisenhower Administration and 
the McCarthy hearings, had a profound cultural impact. Hux- 
lefs fortieth book— its title taken from "The Marriage of Heaven 
and Hell" by the visionary poet William Blake— is one of the key 
works of psychedelic literature. At the beginning of the final 
decade of his life, just a few months short of his sixtieth birth- 
day, Huxley found the "key to chemical access." 

As a literary treatment of a scientific experiment, the references 
are typically wide-ranging; the tone, one of utmost reasonableness 
backed by personal testimony and historical evidence. In addition 
to Blake, an important literary source is The Tibetan Book of the 
Dead, which was to figure so significantly in his later life and 
writings. Huxley concluded that, although it was superior to most 
drugs taken by mankind, "mescalin is not yet the ideal drug." But 
the concept of Moksha was much closer after his first mescalin 
experiment. Present at Huxley's psychedelic initiation, besides Dr. 
Osmond who acted as medical supervisor, was Aldous' wife Maria, 
to whom he dedicated The Doors of Perception. 

It Was In 1886 that the German pharmacologist, Louis Lewin,^ 
published the first systematic study of the cactus, to which his own 
name was subsequently given. Anhalonium lewinii was new to science. 

1 Louis Lewin (1850-1929), German pharmacologist and toxicologist, author of 
Phantastica, etc. Tlie monograph referred to here is: "Uber Anhalonium Lewinii 
Henn.," Arch. f. exp. Path. u. Pharm., 2^, 401-11 (1888 — not if" 

The Doors of Perception ( ( 45 

To primitive religion and the Indians of Mexico and the American 
Southwest it was a friend of immemorially long standing. Indeed, it 
was much more than a friend. In the words of one of the early Span- 
ish visitors to the New World, "they eat a root which they call peyote, 
and which they venerate as though it were a deity." 

Why they should have venerated it as a deity became apparent 
when such eminent psychologists as Jaensch,^ Havelock Ellis,^ and 
Weir Mitchell^ began their experiments with mescalin, the active 
principle of peyote. True, they stopped short at a point well this side 
of idolatry; but all concurred in assigning to mescalin a position among 
drugs of unique distinction. Administered in suitable doses, it changes 
the quality of consciousness more profoundly and yet is less toxic 
than any other substance in the pharmacologist's repertory. 

Mescalin research has been going on sporadically ever since the 
days of Lewin and Havelock Ellis. Chemists have not merely isolated 
the alkaloid; they have learned how to synthesize it, so that the supply 
no longer depends on the sparse and intermittent crop of a desert 
cactus. Alienists have dosed themselves with mescalin in the hope 
thereby of coming to a better, a first-hand, understanding of their 
patients' mental processes. Working unfortunately upon too few sub- 
jects within too narrow a range of circumstances, psychologists have 
observed and catalogued some of the drug's more striking effects. 
Neurologists and physiologists have found out something about the 
mechanism of its action upon the central nervous system. And at 
least one professional philosopher has taken mescalin for the light it 
may throw on such ancient, unsolved riddles as the place of mind in 
nature and the relationship between brain and consciousness. 

There matters rested until, two or three years ago, a new and per- 
haps highly significant fact was observed. Actually the fact had been 
staring everyone in the face for several decades; but nobody, as it 
happened, had noticed it until a young English psychiatrist, at present 
working in Canada, was struck by the close similarity, in chemical 
composition, between mescalin and adrenalin. Further research re- 
vealed that lysergic acid, an extremely potent hallucinogen derived 
from ergot, has a structural biochemical relationship to the others. 
Then came the discovery that adrenochrome, which is a product of 

2 H. Jaensch published papers on mescalin research in the early 19405. 

3 Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), sexologist and man of letters, the first Englishman 
to publish on the effects of mescalin: "Mescal: A New Artificial Paradise," Ann. 
Kept. Smithsonian Inst., 537-48 (1897); "A Note on Mescal Intoxication," The 
Lancet, 1540-42 (1897). 

*S. Weir Mitchell (1820-1914), neurologist and novelist, one of the first 
Americans to publish on the effects of mescalin: "Remarks on the Effects of 
Anhalonium Lewinii, the Mescal Button," Brit. Med. /., 2, 1625-29 (1896). 

46 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

the decomposition of adrenahn, can produce many of the symptoms 
observed in mescalin intoxication. But adrenochrome probably occurs 
spontaneously in the human body. In other words, each one of us 
may be capable of manufacturing a chemical, minute doses of which 
are known to cause profound changes in consciousness. Certain of 
these changes are similar to those which occur in that most character- 
istic plague of the twentieth century, schizophrenia. Is the mental 
disorder due to a chemical disorder? And is the chemical disorder due, 
in turn, to psychological distresses affecting the adrenals? It would be 
rash and premature to affirm it. The most we can say is that some kind 
of a prima facie case has been made out. Meanwhile the clue is being 
systematically followed, the sleuths— biochemists, psychiatrists, psychol- 
ogists—are on the trail. 

By a series of, for me, extremely fortunate circumstances I found 
myself, in the spring of 1953, squarely athwart that trail. One of the 
sleuths had come on business to California. In spite of seventy years 
of mescalin research, the psychological material at his disposal was 
still absurdly inadequate, and he was anxious to add to it. I was on 
the spot and willing, indeed eager, to be a guinea pig. Thus it came 
about that, one bright May morning,^ I swallowed four-tenths of a 
gram of mescalin dissolved in half a glass of water and sat down to 
wait for the results. . . . 

. . . Confronted by a chair which looked like the Last Judgment— 
or, to be more accurate, by a Last Judgment which, after a long time 
and with considerable difficulty, I recognized as a chair— I found my- 
self all at once on the brink of panic. This, I suddenly felt, was going 
too far. Too far, even though the going was into intenser beauty, 
deeper significance. The fear, as I analyze it in retrospect, was of being 
overwhelmed, of disintegrating under a pressure of reality greater than 
a mind, accustomed to living most of the time in a cosy world of 
symbols, could possibly bear. The literature of religious experience 
abounds in references to the pains and terrors overwhelming those who 
have come, too suddenly, face to face with some manifestation of the 
Mysterium tremendum. In theological language, this fear is due to the 
incompatibility between man's egoism and the divine purity, between 
man's self-aggravated separateness and the infinity of God. Following 
Boehme and William Law, we may say that, by unregenerate souls, 
the divine Light at its full blaze can be apprehended only as a burning 
purgatorial fire. An almost identical doctrine is to be found in The 

5 The actual dale was May 6, 1953 

TJie Doors of Perception ( ( 47 

Tibetan Book of the Dead, where the departed soul is described as 
shrinking in agony from the Pure Light of the Void, and even from 
the lesser tempered Lights, in order to rush headlong into the com- 
forting darkness of selfhood as a reborn human being, or even as a 
beast, an unhappy ghost, a denizen of hell. Anything rather than the 
burning brightness of unmitigated Reality— anything! 

The schizophrenic is a soul not merely unregenerate, but desperately 
sick into the bargain. His sickness consists in the inability to take 
refuge from inner and outer reality (as the sane person habitually 
does) in the homemade universe of common sense— the strictly hu- 
man world of useful notions, shared symbols and socially acceptable 
conventions. The schizophrenic is like a man permanently under the 
influence of mescalin, and therefore unable to shut off the experience 
of a reality which he is not holy enough to live witli, which he can- 
not explain away because it is the most stubborn of primary facts, and 
which, because it never permits him to look at the world with merely 
human eyes, scares him into interpreting its unremitting strangeness, 
its burning intensity of significance, as the manifestations of human or 
even cosmic malevolence, calling for the most desperate countermeas- 
ures, from murderous violence at one end of the scale to catatonia, or 
psychological suicide, at the other. And once enbarked upon the 
downward, the infernal road, one would never be able to stop. That, 
now, was only too obvious. 

"If you started in the wrong way," I said in answer to the investi- 
gator's questions, "everything that happened would be a proof of the 
conspiracy against you. It would all be self-validating. You couldn't 
draw a breath without knowing it was part of the plot." 

"So you think you know where madness lies?" 

My answer was a convinced and heartfelt, "Yes." 

"And you couldn't control it?" 

"No I couldn't control it. If one began with fear and hate as the 
major premise, one would have to go on to the conclusion." 

"Would you be able," my wife asked, "to fix your attention on 
what The Tibetan Book of the Dead calls the Clear Light?" 

I was doubtful. 

"Would it keep tlie evil away, if you could hold it? Or would you 
not be able to hold it?" 

I considered the question for some time. "Perhaps," I answered at 
last, "perhaps I could— but only if there were somebody there to tell 
me about the Clear Light. One couldn't do it by oneself. That's the 
point, I suppose of the Tibetan ritual— someone sitting there all the 
time and telling you what's what." 

After listening to the record of this part of the experiment, I took 

48 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

down my copy of Evans- Wentz's edition of The Tibetan Book of the 
Dead, and opened at random. 'O nobly born, let not thy mind be 
distracted." That was the problem— to remain undistracted. Undis- 
tracted by the memory of past sins, by imagined pleasure, by the bitter 
aftertaste of old wrongs and humiliations, by all the fears and hate 
and cravings that ordinarily eclipse the Light. What those Buddhist 
monks did for the dying and the dead, might not the modem psychi- 
atrist do for the insane? Let there be a voice to assure them, by day 
and even while they are asleep, that in spite of all the terror, all the 
bewilderment and confusion, the ultimate Reality remains unshakably 
itself and is of the same substance as the inner light of even the most 
cruelly tormented mind. By means of such devices as recorders, clock- 
controlled switches, public address systems and pillow speakers it 
should be very easy to keep the inmates of even an understaffed institu- 
tion constantly reminded of this primordial fact. Perhaps a few of the 
lost souls might in this way be helped to win some measure of control 
over the universe— at once beautiful and appalling, but always other 
than human, always totally incomprehensible— in which they find 
themselves condemned to live. 

None too soon, I was steered away from the disquieting splendors 
of my garden chair. Drooping in green parabolas from the hedge, the 
ivy fronds shone with a kind of glassy, jade-like radiance. A moment 
later a clump of Red Hot Pokers, in full bloom, had exploded into 
my field of vision. So passionately alive that they seemed to be stand- 
ing on the very brink of utterance, the flowers strained upwards into 
the blue. Like the chair under the laths, they protected too much. I 
looked do\\'n at the leaves and discovered a cavernous intricacy of the 
most delicate green lights and shadows, pulsing with undecipherable 


The flowers are easy to paint. 

The leaves difficult. 

Shiki's haiku (which I quote in R. H. Blyth's translation) expresses, by 
indirection, exactly what I then felt— the excessive, the too obvious 
glory of the flowers, as contrasted with the subtler miracle of their 

We walked out into the street. A large pale blue automobile was 
standing at the curb. At the sight of it, I was suddenly overcome by 
enormous merriment. \Vliat complacency, what an absurd self-satis- 
faction beamed from those bulging surfaces of glossiest enamel! Man 
had created the thing in his own image— or rather in the image of his 

The Doors of Perception ( ( 49 

favorite character in fiction. I laughed till the tears ran down my 

We re-entered the house. A meal had been prepared. Somebody, 
who was not yet identical ^^'ith myself, fell to with ravenous appetite. 
From a considerable distance and without much interest, I looked on. 

When the meal had been eaten, we got into the car and went for 
a drive. The effects of the mescalin were already on the decline: but 
the flowers in the gardens still trembled on the brink of being super- 
natural, the pepper trees and carobs along the side streets still mani- 
festly belonged to some sacred grove. Eden alternated with Dodona. 
Yggdrasil with the mystic Rose. And then, abruptly, we were at an 
intersection, waiting to cross Sunset Boulevard. Before us the cars 
were rolling by in a steady stream— thousands of them, all bright and 
shiny like an advertiser's dream and each more ludicrous than the 
last. Once again I was convulsed with laughter. 

The Red Sea of traffic parted at last, and we crossed into another 
oasis of trees and lawns and roses. In a few minutes we had climbed 
to a vantage point in the hills, and there was the city spread out 
beneath us. Rather disappointingly, it looked ver)^ like the city I had 
seen on other occasions. So far as I was concerned, transfiguration was 
proportional to distance. The nearer, the more divinely other. This 
vast, dim panorama was hardly different from itself. 

We drove on, and so long as we remained in the hills, with view 
succeeding distant view, significance was at its everyday level, well 
below transfiguration point. The magic began to work again only when 
we turned down into a new suburb and were gliding between two rows 
of houses. Here, in spite of the peculiar hideousness of the architec- 
ture, there were renewals of transcendental otherness, hints of the 
morning's heaven. Brick chimneys and green composition roofs glowed 
in the sunshine, like fragments of the New Jerusalem. And all at once 
I saw what Guardi had seen and (with what incomparable skill) had 
so often rendered in his paintings— a stucco wall with a shadow slant- 
ing across it, blank but unforgettably beautiful, empty but charged with 
all the meaning and the mystery of existence. The revelation dawned 
and was gone again within a fraction of a second. The car had moved 
on; time was uncovering another manifestation of the eternal Such- 
ness. "Within sameness there is difference. But that difference should 
be different from sameness is in no wise the intention of all the Bud- 
dhas. Their intention is both totality and differentiation." This bank 
of red and white geraniums, for example— it was entirely different from 
that stucco wall a hundred yards up the road. But the "is-ness" of 
both was the same, the eternal quality of their transience was the 

50 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

An hour later, with ten more miles and the visit to the World's 
Biggest Drug Store safely behind us, we were back at home, and I had 
returned to that reassuring but profoundly unsatisfactory state known 
as ''being in one's right mind." 

Chapter 11 



The Doors of Perception proved to be Huxley's most controversial 
work. The public response, writes his biographer Sybille Bedford, 
"was anything from excitement, discriminate and indiscriminate, to 
moral and intellectual disapproval, shrugging-off, embarrassment. 
. . . Self-respecting rationalists saw fresh evidence of quackery and 
intellectual abdication while the serious and religious were both- 
ered by the offer of a shortcut" (Bedford, p. 544). But Aldous, 
energized from his experience, was already thinking about a sequel 
to Doors, and plunging into travel, correspondence, and diverse 
areas of study— some new and some revisited: parapsychology, 
sensory deprivation (then called "restrictive environment") and 
asceticism, schizophrenia and alcoholism, the heaven-and-hell 
metaphors and images from literature and art. He and Maria also 
tried a psychoactive drug little used in the U.S.: ololiuqui (morn- 
ing glory seeds containing amides of lysergic acid), but the dose 
(six seeds) was apparently too low to provide any effects for 
Aldous beyond euphoria and relaxation. 

A long trip to Europe and the Middle East included a lecture 
on visionary experience at an international parapsychology con- 
gress. He spoke on the same subject to students at Duke University 
on his return to the U.S. By the end of the year he was busily 
working up his notes on this subject into a book. 

52 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

TO J. B. RHINE ' [smith 649] 

y^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles ^6, California 
ij January, 1954 
Dear Dr. Rhine, 

... I am sending you a set of the page proofs of a forthcoming essay 
on the mescahn experience [The Doors of Perception]. The subject 
of what may be called the fauna and flora of the deeper subconscious 
is one that fascinates me. For it would seem that, beyond the personal 
subconscious (concerned with the problems of our private history) 
and beyond Jung's collective subconscious, with its Archetypes which 
are symbolic of the immemorial problems of the species, lies a world 
which has little or nothing to do with our personal or collective hu- 
man interests— the world from which poets and prophets have derived 
their descriptions of hell and heaven and the other, remoter areas of 
the Other World. What turns up under mescalin and in schizophrenia 
is diverse; but the diversity exhibits many common features, and these 
common features crop up in descriptions of Christian, Moslem and 
Buddhist paradises and, when the experience has taken a negative 
turn, in descriptions of hell. There are many items in Dante which 
are very close to what schizophrenics and mescalin takers experience 
and describe. Why we should carry about with us this vast non-human 
universe, one simply cannot imagine. It is just "one of those things" 
—like marsupials in Australia, like giraffes in Africa, only of course 
much much odder. For at least marsupials and giraffes are adapted 
to conditions on our planet; whereas these heaven and hell phenomena 
of the deep subconscious seem to be completely irrelevant to our 
private experience or to the experience of the race. . . . 

Yours very sincerely, 
Aldous Huxley 

1 Leading American investigator of ESP and psi phenomena, subjects which 
greatly interested Huxley. 

Letters ( ( 53 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 653] 

y^o North Kings Roadf 
Los Angeles ^6, California 
2 March, 1954 
Dear Humphry, 

. . . Three interesting things have turned up recently. My old friend 
Naomi Mitchison writes from Scotland, after reading the Doors, that 
she had an almost identical experience of the transfiguration of the 
outer world during her various pregnancies. Could this be due to a 
temporary upset in the sugar supply to the brain? (Also, a strange 
woman writes that she has had a mescalin-like experience during 
attacks of hypoglycjemia.) 

A stranger writes from Seattle that he had produced extraordinary 
changes of consciousness— which he doesn't describe— by fasting and 
going without sleep over a weekend. This, of course, is what so many 
mystics. East and West, have done. Asceticism is only partially moti- 
vated by a sense of sin and a desire for expiation, and only partly, on 
the subconscious level, by masochism. It is also motivated by the 
desire to get in touch with the Other World, and the knowledge, 
personal or vicarious, that "mortification" leads through the door in 
the wall. 

Another stranger writes from Los Angeles. He is an ex-alcoholic, 
who had ecstatic experiences in his early days of alcoholism and insists, 
in spite of what the Freudians may say, that the longing for ecstasy 
is a very strong motive in many alcoholics. He is also a friend of 
Indians, knows some who have taken peyote but had a terrifying ex- 
perience, and hints at knowing or being able to find out a good deal 
about the relationship between peyotism and alcoholism among In- 
dians. I haven't seen this man, and doubt if we shall have time to 
do so before our departure. But (I hope you don't mind!) I have 
asked him to put down his information on paper and to send it to 
you. I think it might be of considerable value. He suggests that it 
might be very interesting to try the effect of mescalin on alcoholics, 
past and present. And I think that, if your research project gets 
started (or even if it doesn't), this might be a fruitful thing to do.^ 

'■^ Osmond, Hoffer and their associates later demonstrated statistically beneficial 
effects of psychotherapy combined with mescalin and LSD on the problem of 

54 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

I also have an amiable, able [. . .] friend [A. L. Kitselman], who 
has evolved, out of the texts of Early Buddhism (texts which he can 
study in the original Pali) a form of psycho-therapy which he calls 
E Therapy. (E being equivalent to the Entelechy, the Bodhi.) He 
himself has taken peyote and proposes to launch out into mescalin, 
under doctor's supervision. Meanwhile he has made a few experiments 
with ololiuqu[i], has found that in some cases it seems to increase 
suggestibility, to give release from long-standing tensions, and to help 
the taker to obtain insights into his or her true nature. At the same 
time it seems to make it easier for those who are near the taker to 
enter into some kind of telepathic rapport with him— or should one 
say a sub-telegraphic rapport, inasmuch as the experiences shared are 
not thoughts but pains and discomforts, which the assistants feel 
vicariously (as has happened under deep hypnosis) and which in some 
way they 'discharge,' to the benefit of the taker, who feels much 
better afterwards. 01oliuqu[i] is used by the Mexican and Cuban witch 
doctors to increase ESP faculties and relieve disease; so it may be that 
there is something psychologically objective about all this. When we 
took it nothing much happened to Leslie LeCron ^ and myself, except 
euphoria and relaxation. Maria got some very amusing and coherent 
visions— different in quality from those she ordinarily gets under hyp- 
nosis, and more obviously meaningful in a symbolic way. One of them 
was like a supplementary chapter to Monkey— the wonderful Chinese 
allegory translated by Arthur Waley. It was a vision of Monkey trying 
to climb to heaven up bis own tail— a really admirable comment on 
the pretensions of the discursive intellect. 

Have you ever tried the effects of mescalin on a congenitally blind 
man or woman? This would surely be of interest. 

Love from us both to you and the family. 


3 Psychotherapist friend of Huxley. 

Letters ( ( 55 

TO HAROLD RAYMOND [smith 657] 

j^o N. Kings Rd., 
Los Angeles 46, Cd. 
8 March, 1954 
Dear Harold, 

Thank you for your letter and the good news about the sales of the 
book [The Doors of Percc/)fion]— excellent, I should say, for an essay. 
I saw Young's review— which I liked very much, and which pleased 
my friend Dr. Osmond, the psychiatrist under whose supervision I 
took the stuff. Osmond himself is writing a review of the book in 
Tomorrow and his young colleague. Dr. Smythies, is doing a piece, 
on mescalin in general, in the same magazine. Incidentally, I am 
amazed what a lot of work is being done on mescalin. Things keep 
cropping up— work at Boston, work at Chicago, work in Buenos Aires. 
In connection with the last, a very able Argentinian-Italian suddenly 
swam into my ken a day or two ago. It turns out that he is the 
greatest authority on the chemistry of the cactus alkaloids, including, 
of course, mescalin.* 

What Steedman^ said about the drug sometimes having terrifying 
results is, of course, perfectly true. (I mentioned the fact in the essay.) 
A very good account of the terror is given by a Canadian journalist 
called Katz in the (I think) October number of Macleans Magazine 
(a Canadian publication). He took the drug under Osmond's super- 
vision, and his article is a blow by blow account, based on recordings 
and shorthand notes, of his experiences— which were perfectly appall- 
ing. How odd it is that writers like Belloc and Chesterton may sing 
the praises of alcohol (which is responsible for about two thirds of 
the car accidents and three quarters of the crimes of violence) and be 
regarded as good Christians and noble fellows, whereas anyone who 
ventures to suggest that there may be other and less harmful short 
cuts to self-transcendence is treated as a dangerous drug fiend and 
wicked perverter of weak-minded humanity! . . . 


* Dr. Ladislao Reti, author of a monograph Cactus Alkaloids and some Related 

Compounds (Vienna, 1950). 

5 A reviewer. 

56 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 671] 

j^o N. Kings Rd., 
Los Angeles ^6, Cal. 
2^ October, [1954] 
My Dear Humphry, 

Just received your letter announcing your arrival around the fifteenth 
to seventeenth of November, I hope you will stay here as long as you 
can. If you feel the need of greater quiet, we could go out into the 
desert somewhere for a few days, or on to the coast, or maybe for a 
little trip combining both, which is very feasible in these parts. 

We gave most of our mescalin to our friend Dr. Godel in Egypt, 
who knew a little about the subject but wanted to find out more. 
This being so, please come supplied; for you know how hard it is to 
get hold of anything here. I can't remember if I told you about Dr. 
Puharich's use of lysergic acid in ESP experiments— finding that there 
was a period of heightened ability near the beginning, a long spell of 
no ability, and then another lucid period near the end. He was going 
to try to cut down the dose in such a way as to keep the subject in 
the lucid zone all the time, without being carried out of bounds into 
the totally Other World. ^ Obviously we have to think of the mind in 
terms of a stratified Neapolitan ice, with a peculiar flavour of con- 
sciousness at each level. Pharmacology may permit us to go precisely to 
the level we want and no further. 

Did you, by the way, ever send the plays? 

Our love to you all. 


^Andrija Pnharich, pioneer researcher on the interconnection of psychedelics 
and parapsychology, autiior of In Search of the Magic Mushroom (1959). 

Letters ( ( 57 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 672] 

j^o N. Kings Rd., 
L A ^6, Cat 
J 'November, 1954 
Dear Humphry, 

Can you please give me a little information. Where is [D. O.] Hebb's 
work on the effects of restricted environment pubhshed? Or, better 
still can you tell me in a line or two what was the nature of the ex- 
periences induced by being shut up in silence, in the dark? Were 
these visions of a mescalin-like kind? I want at least to mention the 
work in the essay on "Visionary Experience, Vis. Art and the Other 
World," which I am now enlarging.'^ 
Looking fonvard to seeing you soon. 


^ Huxley was also aware of Dr. John Lilly's work in this field; he and Julian 
Huxley visited Lilly's laboratory in 1956. 

Chapter 12 


The Far Continents 
Of The Mind 


The following address is the first of Huxley's many talks on the 
attainment of visionary experience. Eileen J. Garrett, a longtime 
friend, was president of the Parapsychology Foundation which 
hosted annual symposia attracting the leading figures in the field. 
Huxley's interest in parapsychology goes back to the 1930s, when 
he visited Dr. J. B. Rhine at Duke University in 1937. 

It Is Difficult to speak of mental events except in similes drawn 
from the familiar universe of material things. A man may be said to 
consist of an Old World of personal consciousness, and, on the other 
side of a dividing ocean, of a series of New Worlds. These New 
Worlds of a subconscious can never be colonized, are seldom thoroughly 
explored, and in many cases await even discovery. As in this earth, if 
you go to the antipodes of the. self-conscious personality, you will 
encounter all sorts of creatures at least as odd as kangaroos. We do 
not, in either case, invent these creatures. They live independently, and 
beyond our control. But we may go where they are, and observe them. 
Tliey exist "out there" in the mental equivalent of distant space. 
From "in here" we can sometimes watch them as they go about their 
mysterious business. 

Some never consciously discover their antipodes. Others make an 
occasional landing. A few others come and go easily at will. For the 
naturalist of the mind— who must gather his data before we become 
true zoologists of the mind— the primary need is for some safe, easy. 

The Far Continents of The Mind ( ( 59 

reliable method of transportation between the two Worlds. Two such 
methods exist. Neither is perfect; both are sufficiently reliable, easy and 
safe to justify their use by those who know what they do. The first 
is by use of mescalin, an alkaloid chemical. The second is by means of 
hypnotism. Tlie two vessels carry consciousness to the same region; 
the drug has longer range and carries one farther into the terra incognita. 

As to hypnosis, we do not know how it produces its observed effects. 
Nor need we know. About the physiological effects of mescalin we 
know a little. It interferes with the enzyme system regulating cerebral 
functioning, impairs the brain's efficiency and permits entry into con- 
sciousness of certain kinds of mental activity normally excluded as 
possessing no survival value. We have visions. But they are not random 
visions. What takes place in them follows patterns as logical internally 
as are the things seen in the antipodes of the external world. They are 
strange, but with a certain regularity. 

Certain common features are imposed by this pattern upon our 
visionary experience. First, and most important, is the experience of 
light. Everything is brilliantly illuminated, shining from within, and a 
riot of colors is intensified to a pitch unknown in the normal state. 
(Most normal dreams are either in black and white or only faintly 
colored.) Color in dream or vision probably represents sight of "some- 
thing given" as distinguished from the dramatic symbols of our own 
struggles or wishes, which are usually uncolored. The visions seen in 
these antipodes of the mind have nothing to do with the dreams of 
normal sleep, which we ourselves generate. We see them because they 
are there, but they are not our creations. Such preternatural light is 
characteristic of all visionary experience. 

Along with light, there comes recognition of heightened significance. 
The self-luminous objects possess a meaning as intense as their color. 
Here, significance is identical with being: objects do not stand for any- 
thing but themselves. Their meaning is precisely this: that they are 
intensely themselves, and, being so, are manifestations of the essential 
givenness and otherness of the universe. 

Light, color and significance do not exist in isolation. They modify, or 
are manifested by, objects. Certain classes of perceptual images appear 
again and again; colored, moving, living geometrical forms which undu- 
late into more concrete perceptions of patterned things, such as carpets, 
carvings, mosaics, transmuting continually into other forms in height- 
ened color and grandeur. The observer is cut off from his past; he 
views a new creation. Much in them is similar to the heavens and 
fairylands of folklore and religion, the prototype of many Paradises. 

6o ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

But there may be infernal experience as well, as terrible as the 
other is glorious. In paradisal visions there is a sense of dissociation 
from self and its body; in infernal visions the consciousness of the body 
is heightened and continually degraded. This comes when one lacks that 
faith and loving confidence which alone guarantees that visionary 
experience shall be blissful. And what takes place in visions may be but 
a foretaste of what shall come after the moment of death. 

Chapter 13 



And The ''Other WorW 


At the first American symposium on psychedelic substances Hux- 
ley was the only non-medical person amongst "the Electric Shock 
Boys, the Chlorpromaziners, and the 57 Varieties of Psychother- 
apists" (as he wrote to Humphry Osmond). His address, not 
unexpectedly, was the only one that dealt with the drug experi- 
ence of the ''relatively sane," rather than the mentally disturbed 
person. Ideas which he was to further develop in Heaven and Hell 
—the value of access to "the antipodes of the mind," visionary 
experience by means of hypnosis, hallucinogens, the "transport" 
of objects such as precious stones, the magical qualities governing 
these states— is developed primarily through literary and artistic 

My Purpose Tonight Is To discuss the mescaline experiences, not of 
neurotics, but of those who, like myself, are relatively sane. Classic 
descriptions of this experience were given, many years ago, by Weir 
Mitchell and Havelock Ellis, whose accounts tally very closely with 
what I myself and all the experimenters with whom I am personally 
acquainted were able to report. These classic mescaline experiences 
differ in many respects from those we have heard discussed tonight. 
Almost all of those we have heard discussed tonight are colored by 
fear and anxiety. Moreover, they abound in references to the subject's 
personal memories and to the traumatic experiences of his childhood. 
How different is the classic mescaline experience! Here the most strik- 

6i ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

ing feature, stressed emphatically by all who have gone through it, is 
its profound impersonality. The classic mescaline experience is not of 
consciously or unconsciously remembered events, does not concern 
itself with early traumas, and is not, in most cases, tinged by anxiety 
and fear. It is as though those who were going through it had been 
transported by mescaline to some remote, non-personal region of the 

Let us use a geographical metaphor and liken the personal life of 
the ego to the Old World. We leave the Old World, cross a dividing 
ocean, and find ourselves in the world of the personal subconscious, 
with its flora and fauna of repressions, conflicts, traumatic memories 
and the like. Traveling further, we reach a kind of Far West, inhabited 
by Jungian archetypes and the raw materials of human mythology. 
Beyond this region lies a broad Pacific. Wafted across it on the wings 
of mescaline or lysergic acid diethylamide, we reach what may be called 
the Antipodes of the mind. In this psychological equivalent of Australia 
we discover the equivalents of kangaroos, wallabies, and duck-billed 
platypuses— a whole host of extremely improbable animals, which 
nevertheless exist and can be observed. 

Now, the problem is, how can we visit the remote areas of the mind, 
where these creatures live? Some people, it is clear, can go there spon- 
taneously and more or less at will. A few of these travelers were great 
artists, who could not only visit the Antipodes, but could also give an 
account of what they saw, in words, or in pictures. Much more numer- 
ous are those who have been to the Antipodes, have seen its strange 
inhabitants, but are incapable of giving adequate expression to what 
they have observed. At the present time they are reluctant to give even 
an inadequate expression to their experience. The mental climate 
of our age is not favorable to visionaries. Tliose who have such spon- 
taneous experiences, and are unwise enough to talk about them, are 
looked on with suspicion and told that they ought to see a psychiatrist. 
In the past, experiences of this kind were considered valuable and 
those who had them were looked up to. This is one of the reasons 
(though not perhaps the only reason) ^^'hy there were more visionaries 
in earlier centuries than there are today. 

Those who cannot visit the mind's Antipodes at will (and they are 
the majority) must find some artificial method of transportation. One 
method which works in a certain proportion of cases is hypnosis. Tliere 
are persons who, under moderately deep hypnosis, enter the visionary 

More certain in their effect are the so-called hallucinogens, mescaline 
and LSD. Personally I have never taken LSD, so I can speak, from 
experience, only of mescaline. Mescaline transports us very painlessly 

Mescaline and the "Other World' ( ( 63 

—for there is hardly any of that horrible nausea which follows the in- 
gestion of the peyote cactus, and there is no hangover— to the mind's 
Antipodes, where we find a fauna and a flora strikingly different from 
the fauna and flora of the familiar Old World of personal conscious- 
ness. But just as marsupials, though improbable, are in no sense random 
or lawless phenomena, so it is with the inhabitants of the mind's 
Antipodes. They conform to the laws of their own being, they can be 
classified and their strangeness possesses a certain regularity of pat- 
tern. As [Heinrich] Kliiver has pointed out in his book on peyote,^ 
visionary experiences, though varying from individual to individual, 
belong nevertheless to one and the same family. Mescaline experiences 
of the classic kind exhibit certain well-marked characteristics. 

The most striking of these common characteristics is the experience 
of light. There is a great intensification of light; this intensification 
is experienced both when the eyes are closed and when they are open. 
Light seems praeternaturally intense in all that is seen with the inward 
eye. It seems also praeternaturally strong in the outside world. 

With this intensification of light there goes a tremendous intensifi- 
cation of color, and this holds good of the outer world as well as of 
the inner world. 

Finally there is an intensification of what I may call intrinsic signifi- 
cance. That which is seen, either with the eyes closed or open, is felt 
to have a profound meaning. A symbol stands for something else, and 
this standing for something else is its meaning. But the meaningful 
things seen in the mescaline experience are not symbols. They do not 
stand for something else, do not mean anything except themselves. The 
significance of each thing is identical with its being. Its point is that 
it is. In a paradoxical, but (to those who have experienced tliis height- 
ening of intrinsic significance) an entirely self-evident way, the relative 
becomes absolute, the transient particularly universal and eternal. 

Intensified light, intensified color and intensified significance do 
not exist in isolation. They inhere in objects. And here again the 
experiences of those who have taken a hallucinogen, while in a good 
state of mental and physical health, and with a proper degree of philo- 
sophical preparation, seem to follow a fairly regular pattern. When 
the eyes are closed, visionary experience begins with the appearance in 
the visual field of living, moving geometries. These abstract, three- 
dimensional forms are intensely illuminated and brilliantly colored. 
After a time they tend to take on the appearance of concrete objects, 
such as richly patterned carpets, or mosaics, or carvings. These in turn 

^Mescal: The 'Divine' Plant and Its Psychological Effects (London, igzJ 
Chicago, 1966). 

64 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

modulate into rich and elaborate buildings, set in landscapes of extra- 
ordinary beauty. Neither the buildings nor the landscapes remain static, 
but change continuously. In none of their metamorphoses do they 
resemble any particular building or landscape seen by the subject in 
his ordinary state and remembered from the near or distant past. 
These things are all new. The subject does not remember or invent 
them; he discovers them, "out there," in the psychological equivalent 
of a hitherto unexplored geographical region. 

Through these landscapes and among these living architectures 
wander strange figures, sometimes of human beings (or even of what 
seem to be superhuman beings), sometimes of animals or fabulous 
monsters. Giving a straightforward prose description of what he used 
to see in his spontaneous visions, Willim Blake reports that he fre- 
quently saw beings, to whom he gave the name of Cherubim. These 
beings were a hundred and twenty feet high and were engaged (this 
is characteristic of the personages seen in vision) in doing nothing 
that could be thought of as being symbolic or dramatic. In this respect 
the inhabitants of the mind's Antipodes differ from the figures inhabit- 
ing Jung's archetypal world; for they have nothing to do either with 
the personal history of the visionary, or even with the age-old problems 
of the human race. Quite hterally, they are the inhabitants of "the 
Other World." 

This brings me to a very interesting and, I believe, significant point. 
The visionary experience, whether spontaneous or induced by drugs, 
hypnosis or any other means, bears a striking resemblance to "the Other 
World," as we find it described in the various traditions of religion 
and folklore. In every culture the abode of the gods and of souls in 
bliss is a country of surpassing beauty, glowing with color, bathed in 
intense light. In this country are seen buildings of indescribable mag- 
nificence, and its inhabitants are fabulous creatures, like the six- 
winged seraphs of Hebrew tradition, or like the winged bulls, the 
hawk-headed men, the human-headed lions, the many-armed, or 
elephant-headed personages of Egyptian, Babylonian and Indian my- 
thology. Among these fabulous creatures move superhuman angels and 
spirits, who never do anything, but merely enjoy the beatific vision. 

The costumes of the inhabitants, the buildings and even many fea- 
tures of the landscape in "the Other World" are encrusted with pre- 
cious stones. Interestingly enough, the same is true of the inner world 
contacted under mescaline or in spontaneous vision. Weir Mitchell and 
many of the other experimenters, who have left an account of their 
mescaline experience, record a profusion of living gems. These gems 
which, in Mitchell's words, look like clusters of transparent fruit, glow- 
ing with internal radiance, encrust the buildings, the mountains, the 

Mescaline and the "Other World' ( ( 65 

banks of rivers, the trees. One is reminded, as one reads these descrip- 
tions of the mescahne experience, of what is said of the next worid in 
the various religious literatures of the world. Ezekiel speaks of "the 
stones of fire," which are found in Eden. In the Book of Revelation, the 
New Jerusalem is a city of precious stones and of a substance which 
must have seemed to our ancestors almost as wonderful as gem-stones 
—glass. The wall of the New Jerusalem is of "gold like glass"— that is 
to say of a transparent, self-luminous substance having the color 
of gold. Glass reappears in the Celtic and Teutonic mythologies of 
Western Europe. The home of the dead, among the Teutons, is a glass 
mountain, and among the Celts it was a glass island, with glass bowers. 

The Hindu and Buddhist paradises abound, like the New Jerusalem, 
in gems; and the same is true of the magic island which, in Japanese 
mythology, parallels Avalon and the Isles of the Blest. 

Among primitive peoples, ignorant of glass and having no access 
to gemstones, paradise is adorned with self-luminous flowers. Such 
magical flowers play an important part in the Other World of more 
advanced peoples. One thinks, for example, of the lotus of Buddhist 
and Hindu mythology, the rose and lily of the Christian tradition. 

It may be objected that paradise is merely "pie in the sky," and 
that the reason all paradises are adorned with precious stones is pre- 
cisely their preciousness here on earth. But why should gems ever have 
been regarded as precious? What has induced men to spend such 
enormous quantities of time, trouble and money on the finding and 
cutting of colored pebbles? In terms of any kind of utilitarian phi- 
losophy, the fact is entirely inexplicable. My own view is that an 
explanation for the preciousness of precious stones must be sought, first 
of all, in the facts of visionary experience. Gem-like objects, bright, self- 
luminous, glowing with praeternatural color and significance, exist in 
the mind's Antipodes, are seen by visionaries and are felt by all who 
see them to be of enormous significance. In the objective world, the 
things which most nearly resemble these self-luminous visionary objects 
are gems. Precious stones are held to be precious, because they remind 
human beings of the Other World at the mind's Antipodes— the Other 
World of which visionaries are fully conscious, and ordinary persons 
are obscurely and, as it were, subterraneously aware. There is a magical 
kind of beauty, which we say is "transporting." The adjective is well 
chosen; for it is literally true that certain spectacles do carry away 
the mind of the beholder— carry it out of the everyday world of 
common, conceptualized experience into the magical Other World 
of nonverbal, visionary awareness. 

Flowers are almost as transporting as precious stones, and I would 
be inchned to attribute the almost universal passion for flowers, the 

66 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

almost universal use of flowers in the rites of religion, to the fact that 
they remind men and women of what is always there, praeternaturally 
bright, colorful and significant, at the back of their minds. 

Of the connection between visionary experience and certain forms 
of art, I have not time to speak. Suffice it to say that the connection 
is real, and that the almost magical power exercised by certain works of 
art springs from the fact that they remind us, consciously or, more 
often, unconsciously, of that Other World, which the natural visionary 
can enter at will, and to which the rest of us have access only under 
the influence of hypnosis or of a drug such as mescaline or LSD. 

Chapter 14 



Aldous took mescalin twice this year. The first occasion was in 
the company of his longtime friend, the British writer, Gerald 
Heard, and uranium-mogul Captain Albert M. Hubbard. "Since 
I was in a group," wrote Huxley, "the experience had a human 
content, which the earlier, solitary experience, with its Other 
Worldly quality and its intensification of aesthetic experience, 
did not possess." The second mescalin session guided by Laura 
Archer a was overwhelmingly spiritual, bringing "the direct, total 
awareness . . . of Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic 
fact." Between these sessions occurred the death of his beloved 
Maria, whom he had married in 1919. Maria had taken mescalin 
and ololiuqui, had had visionary experiences under hypnosis, and 
mystical revelations in the desert. She and Aldous had attended 
D. H. Lawrence at his death in 1930. During Maria's last hours 
Aldous read the Bardo Thodol to her from The Tibetan Book 
of the Dead. 

Most of the essay Heaven and Hell was written during 1955. 
The year ended with Huxley's first LSD experiment, again in the 
company of Heard and Hubbard. Aldous took a small dose, but 
the experience was highly significant: while listening to Bach, he 
comprehended "the essential All-Rightness of the universe . . . the 
reconciliation of opposites . . . the Nirvana-nature of Samsara." He 
also experimented with a psychoactive gas composed of carbon 
dioxide and oxygen (carbogen). Another facet of Huxley's character 
is revealed in his attempt to solicit support for someone arrested 
for possession of peyote. 

68 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 


y^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles ^6, Cal. 
10 January, 1955 
My Dear Roger and Alice, 

... I have done a great deal of work— having finished a short novel/ 
which is to come out next April or May, and a volume of essays,^ 
including the one on visionary experience and the Other World, which 
you saw last spring, and which has now been greatly enlarged so as 
to include a discussion of visionary art. 

And, talking of visions, I took mescalin yesterday, for the second time. 
This experience was no less remarkable than the first— but entirely 
different; for since I was in a group, with three other people, the 
experience had a human content, which the earlier, solitary experience, 
with its Other Worldly quality and its intensification of aesthetic 
experience, did not possess. For five hours I was given a series of 
luminous illustrations of the Christian saying, "J^*^S^ "^t that ye be 
not judged," and the Buddhist saying, "To set up what you like against 
what you dislike, this is the disease of the mind." Incidentally some 
remarkable developments are now taking place in the field of mescalin. 
A group of psychologists and social workers in Vancouver and Seattle 
have developed techniques for using mescalin therapeutically. It acts 
in the opposite way to narcosynthesis. When psychological treatment 
is done under barbiturates, the ego is made drowsy and it becomes pos- 
sible to get at some of the contents of the personal subconscious. But 
with mescalin consciousness is not narrowed, it is enormously enlarged, 
and the whole gamut of the psyche, up to the highest superconscious 
levels, is opened up. The first treatment is negative in its nature, the 
second positive. And the results in the cases hitherto treated (they are 
still rather few) have been spectacular. Delinquent boys have been 
totally transformed in a single sitting, and the metanoia has persisted. 
Meanwhile a considerable number of academic persons and of profes- 
sional and business men have taken the stuff— and all, without 
exception, have declared it to be the most significant experience of 
their lives and have found, particularly when it is taken in groups, 

^ The Genius and the Goddess. 
2 Heaven and Hell. 

Letters (( 69 

that mescalin brings about a profound and lasting change of outlook. 
There is some prospect of a mixed commission— doctors, psychologists, 
philosophers, social workers— being created to consider the whole 
subject. As the man whose book was largely responsible for the great 
increase of interest in mescalin, I hope to participate in the work of 
this commission. 

Have the dialogues yet appeared?^ And what are you working 
on now? (as though your hospital work were not real work!) And 
how is Alice's family? And the Hellous? 

I hope that 1955 will be a fruitful year for both of you and a very 
happy one. 

Ever yourSy dear Alice, and ever yours too, dear Roger, 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 678] 

j^o North Kings Rd., 
Los Angeles 46, Cal. 
12 January, 1955 
Dear Humphry, 

It was good to hear your voice "* so clearly across the intervening spaces. 
Your nice Captain tried a new experiment— group mescalinization. It 

worked very well for Gerald Heard and myself, hardly at all for [ ], 

who was given a small dose (200 mgs to our 300) and who had a sub- 
conscious resistance of tremendous power, and rather poorly for Hub- 
bard, who tried to run the group in the way he had run other groups in 
Vancouver, where the drug has worked as a device for raising buried 
guilts and traumas and permitting people to get on to better terms with 
themselves. Gerald and I evaded liim and went somewhere else— but 
not to the remote Other Worlds of previous experiments. In both cases, 
albeit in different ways, it was a transcendental experience within this 
world and with human references. I hope to write something about my 
experience and will send you a copy in due course. Meanwhile I am 

' Godel's Un Compagnon de Socrate: dialogues sur V experience lib^ratrice (Paris, 

^ Huxley had telephoned Osmond apparently to get his approval before partici- 
pating in the experiment. Maria Huxley, on a postal card of ii January, told 
Osmond: "Probably I ought to know that they know who is the boss — or High 

Priest I 1 as you like. But I was very relieved to hear they had telephoned to 

you." Captain Albert M. Hubbard maintained a drug-research center in Vancouver. 
The "pharmacological lady" was Madame Steiner of Paris. [Smith's note] 

yo ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

hopeful that the good Captain, whose connections with Uranium 
seem to serve as a passport into the most exalted spheres of govern- 
ment, business and ecclesiastical polity, is about to take off for New 
York, where I hope he will storm the United Nations, take Nelson 
Rockefeller for a ride to Heaven and return with millions of dollars. 
What Babes in the Wood we literary gents and professional men are! 
The great World occasionally requires your services, is mildly amused 
by mine; but its full attention and deference are paid to Uranium 
and Big Business. So what extraordinary luck that this representative 
of both these Higher Powers should (a) have become so passionately 
interested in mescalin and (b) be such a very nice man. 

I am enclosing a letter from France, which I mislaid and have just 
recovered from the depths of a coat pocket. I have asked this 
pharmacological lady to send you a copy of her thesis direct. It might 
be of some interest. . . . 


TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 679] 

j^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles 46, Cal. 
16 January, 1955 
My Dear Humphry, 

Thank you for your letter and the script of the talk, which I hke 
very much indeed. All I can suggest by way of change is an addition 
of a line or two, indicating a little more specifically than you do what 
may be expected from systematic research with mescalin and similar 
substances. One would expect, for example, that new light might be 
shed on the workings of artistic and scientific insight, and perhaps 
some control gained over the otherwise random and gratuitous 
process of inspiration. One would also expect light to be shed on the 
problems of parapsychology. Also on those of philosophy and religion. 
Gerald and I had another day with Al Hubbard, down at Long 
Beach. He has provided us both with a stock of carbon dioxide and 
oxygen mixture.^ I have tried this stuff before, without much effect. 

5 Carbogen (a mixture of seven parts of oxygen and three parts of carbon 
dioxide) has been used as a psychotherapeutic agent; its effects are discussed in an 
appendix to Heaven and Hell. 

Letters (( 71 

But I suspect it was not administered properly, and maybe there will, 
after all, be something to be learned by means of this simple and 
harmless procedure. Hubbard himself swears by it. . . . 


TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 713] 

Newcomb House, Clapboard Hill Rd., 
Guilford, Conn. 
26 July, 1955 
Dear Humphry, 

I am two long good letters in your debt. No excuse, except that I 
have been trying to catch up with vast arrears of correspondence and 
to finish the series of appendices which will be published with the 
essay on "Visionary Experience and Visionary Art," when it comes 
out next January.^ The pubhsher's deadline is August the first; so I 
have to keep very busy. I have done one of the appendices on popular 
visionary art— e.g. fireworks, pageantry, theatrical spectacle, magic 
lantern shows (very important in the past) and certain aspects of 
the cinema. A curious and interesting subject. One of the striking 
facts is the close dependence of such arts on technology. For example, 
the progress in artificial lighting since 1750— spermaceti candles, 
Argand's burners for oil lamps, gaslight, limelight from 1825 onwards, 
parabolic reflectors from 1790, electric light after the 'eighties— has 
immensely heightened the magical power of pagpantry and the 
theatrical spectacle. Elizabeth H's coronation was better than anything 
of the kind in the past, because of floodlights. It could also be 
preserved on film— whereas all previous pageants were ephemeral shows 
and could only hope "to live in Settle's numbers one day more." The 
producers of Jacobean masques were hopelessly handicapped by having 
no decent lighting. Magic lanterns are very interesting. The fact that 
Kircher's invention was christened "magic" and that the name was 
universally accepted is highly significant. Intense light plus transparent 
colour equals vision. And did you realize that the word "phantasma- 
goria" was coined in 1802 by the inventors of a new and improved 
magic lantern which moved on wheels back and forth behind a semi- 
transparent screen and could project images of varying sizes, which 

^Heaven and Hell. 

qz ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

were kept in focus by an automatic focusing device? I cannot help 
believing that many features in the Romantic imagination were derived 
from the magic lantern show with its "dissolving views" (produced 
by two lanterns with convergent images and shutters that could be 
stopped down and opened up in correspondence with one another), 
its "phantasmagorias," its "chrometropic slides" (producing three 
dimensional moving patterns, very like those of mescalin). One sees 
hints of the lantern show in Shelley and, in another aspect, in Keats, 
in Fuseli and John Martin. And, talking of lanterns— did I tell you 
that my friend Dr. [L. S.] Cholden" had found that the stroboscope 
improved on mescalin effects, just as Al Hubbard did? His own 
geometrical visions turned, under the flashing lamp, to Japanese land- 
scapes. How the hell this fits in with the notion that stroboscopic effects 
result from the interference of two rhythms, the lamp's and the brain 
waves', I cannot imagine. And anyhow what on earth are the neuro- 
logical correlations of mescalin and LSD experiences? And if neuro- 
logical patterns are formed, as presumably they must be, can they 
be reactivated by a probing electrode, as [Wilder] Penfield reactivates 
trains of memories, evoking complete vivid recall? 
I too have had a birthday, this very day. 

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of age, 
Stol'n on his wing my first and sixtieth year! 


TO MRS. EILEEN J. GARRETT [smith 717] 

Guilford, Conn. 

2 J August, 1955 
My Dear Eileen, 

... I spent some days, earlier this month, at Glen Cove, in the 
strange household assembled by Puharich— Alice [Bouverie] and Mrs. 
P[uharich], behaving to one another in a conspicuously friendly way; 
Elinor Bond, doing telepathic guessing remarkably well, but not pro- 
ducing anything of interest or value in the mediumistic sitting she 

"^ The psychoanalyst who was chairman of the mescalin-LSD symposium held in 
Atlantic City on May 12th, tragically killed in an auto accident. 

Letters ( ( 73 

gave me; Frances Farrelly, with her diagnostic machine— which 
Puharich's tests have shown to be merely an instrument, hke a crystal 
ball, for concentrating ESP faculties; Harry, the Dutch sculptor, who 
goes into trances in the Faraday cages and produces automatic scripts 
in Egyptian hieroglyphics; Narodny, the cockroach man, who is pre- 
paring experiments to test the eflFects of human telepathy on insects. 
It was all very lively and amusing— and, I really think, promising; 
for whatever may be said against Puharich, he is certainly very intel- 
ligent, extremely well-read and highly enterprising. His aim is to 
reproduce by modern pharmacological, electronic and physical methods 
the conditions used by the shamans for getting into a state of travelling 
clairvoyance and then, if he succeeds, to send people to explore 
systematically "the Other World." This seems to be as good a new 
approach to the survival problem (along with a lot of other problems) 
as any of the rest, and may yield some interesting results. Meanwhile, 
to everyone's immense delight, they have found specimens of Amanita 
muscaria actually growing on the estate— having received instructions 
where to find them via the ouija board, while trying to contact Mr. 
[Gordon] Wasson's curandera, who was under mushroom trance at the 
moment, in Mexico. This is all the more remarkable as the literature 
of the mycological society of New England records only one previous 
instance of the discovery of an Amanita in Maine. At Glen Cove they 
have now found eight fine specimens on the same spot. The effects, 
when a piece as big as a pin's head, is rubbed for a few seconds into 
the skin of the scalp are quite alarmingly powerful, and it will obviously 
take a lot of very cautious experimentation to determine the right psi- 
enhancing dose of the mushroom. 

I go to New York on Monday, shall stay with Anita Loos and talk 
with my director and producer about my play [The Genius and the 
Goddess], then fly to Los Angeles on Thursday. Ellen and Matthew 
send love. 


Chapter 15 


In The Darkness 


Aldous' mescalin experience in Oct. 1955 can he evaluated both 
from the account of Laura Archera—his wife-to-be, and session 
guide— and his own account in a letter to Dr. Osmond. Laurds 
sensitive description is revelatory not only as an objective view of 
Aldous under the influence of a psychedelic, but for the light it 
throws on the function of a psychedelic guide or companion during 
a session. Huxley had intended to explore his childhood— Laura 
was experienced in eliciting recall and working off abreactions 
with dianetic procedures— but instead there occurred an examina- 
tion of the nature of love in the relation of himself and his guide 
as "no separation between subject and object!' 

The creative process whereby Huxley drew on his personal ex- 
periences in writing episodes of Island is discussed in this report. 
This Timeless Moment also contains a description of Laura's 
initial psychedelic experience and Aldous' responses to her, in- 
cluding a statement she heard him repeat often in following years: 
'This drug seems to do for each person what the person needs!' 

Now, In 1967, when LSD has become a household word, I realize 
how lucky those of us were who ten years ago approached LSD before 
it had either the demoniacal or the paradisiacal vibrations it has now 
—when it had no echoes of gurus and heroes, doctors or delinquents. 
We went into the experience not knowing what would happen, not 
expecting that it would be like the experience of someone at last 
Saturday night's party, or like that of Mary Jones, whose hallucinated. 

Disregarded In The Darkness ( ( 75 

frightened eyes stare at me from the pages of a magazine. LSD— those 
three now-famous letters were free of association with scientific right- 
eousness and beatnik conformity, with earthly paradise and parental 
loving concern— also free from closed-mindedness, obscurantism, and 
bigotry. The unconscious identification with those ideas, feelings, and 
fears inevitably occurs now, with disastrous consequences. 

What was my own initiation to LSD? It was very simple: Aldous 
asked me to keep him company one whole day when he was going 
to take LSD.i 

"I would love to stay with you all day," I answered. "Is there any- 
thing I should know or do?" 

Aldous smiled. "Nothing— just be as you are." 

Was it naivete rather than wisdom that made me pass over that 
statement so lightly? 

I arrived at Aldous's home about nine o'clock. Aldous took the pills 
and gave me a paper on which he had written his main purpose for 
this session. I cannot quote his words exactly— however, their essence 
was this: "I want to know, and constantly be, in the state of love." 

I wondered. To me Aldous seemed always to be in the state of 
love! However, my opinion was not the point; his feelings and his 
search only were important. 

This was October 1955. Except for reading The Doors of Perception, 
I had no idea then what a psychedelic session was. However, I had 
had five years of experience in giving therapy. The best attitude, in 
these sessions, is to cancel out for that period one's opinions and to 
put aside one's tendency to judge others— just to be there, very 
attentive and free. Not that this free state is always reached or even 
reachable— but it is one of the goals. That state of attention v^^ould be 
appropriate, I thought, for the LSD day. 

The levels on which we exist are probably infinite— though there 
are certain levels on which in everyday life, more or less, we meet. 
But a person in the psychedelic state is on completely different levels. 
I saw an example of this right at the beginning of our LSD day: 
Aldous was looking at my hair very closely and smiling that smile 
which later I recognized almost every time he was in the psychedelic 
state. With a voice lower and rounder than usual, he said, very 
slowly, "If you could only see your hair." And after a long silence: 
"You cannot imagine . . ." 

I said nothing but remembered the new rinse I had put on my 
hair the day before. Did it show? Was it the right color? This is typical 

1 More likely, mescalin. See Huxley's letter to Osmond, 29 Oct. 1955. He took 
LSD for the first time in December. 

76 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

of the different levels of consciousness. Aldous was looking at hair, 
seeing in it the very mystery and wonder of life. He was on a cosmic 
level, while I, on the cosmetic one, was worrying about the new rinse. 
I remained silent but was glad when he stopped looking. 

Aldous said that day things which I began to understand only later. 
At the beginning of the day we tried to enter that period of Aldous's 
childhood of which he remembered very little. Our attempts failed 
completely. Very soon I gave up trying as I became aware that some- 
thing awesome was taking place. I did not know what it was, but I 
felt that one had no right to disturb what was happening with the 
usual recall techniques of psychotherapy. I felt it would be like trying 
to find a faded photograph of a great cathedral while being in the 
cathedral itself. 

That first psychedelic day as a companion to Aldous flowed easily 
and quietly. There is so much mystery in a psychedelic day, so much 
happens in the person who is having the experience that he cannot 
express. That day, as on many others when I was a companion to a 
"voyager," I became slightly affected by the drug, although I did not 
take it and never do when I am a companion. It is one of the many 
unaccountable qualities of these chemicals. Perhaps the breath of a 
person who has taken LSD has some trace of it; maybe it comes out 
from the skin pores. Or is this phenomenon due to hypnosis, imagina- 
tion, energy-transfer, telepathy? Or to a yet unexplained osmotic 
process? I do not know. It is a fact, however, that some of the most 
sensitive companions feel a slight effect of LSD when in the presence 
of a person who has taken it. In slang, this is called "having a free 
ride." It is desirable that it should happen, for then the companion 
is not too separated from the voyager— the companion may participate, 
even though in a minute way, in the voyage. This natural participation 
is basic to psychedelic companionship. 

The first trip with Aldous I remember as a timeless roundness. I 
was not this timeless roundness; Aldous was. My surface mind was 
still going at its petty pace, but I was aware enough of the timeless 
roundness not to disturb it. In Aldous's case it could hardly have 
been disturbed, but in people not as prepared as he was, feelings, 
revelation, and reaction can be of a different nature. So are states 
of consciousness. The companion should not interfere with these states 
or judge them by word, gesture, or feeling— for it is important that 
the voyager accept all of them, whether blissful or hellish, intellectual 
or emotional, or unqualifiable— and relate them to his life, for they 
are all different aspects of himself and of his history. 

As Aldous wrote to Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, 
"in Island the account of individual [psychedelic] experiences is first- 

Disregarded In The Darkness ( ( 77 

hand knowledge," But I had not the sHghtest idea that day, and for 
a long time afterwards, that these experiences were to be the raw 
material for Aldous's writing. I was so totally unaware of anything 
connected with the process of writing that it was an enormous surprise 
for me to find much of our lives in Island. 

That first LSD day was filled with aesthetic revelations. We listened 
to Bach's Fourth Brandenburg Concerto: 

It was the same, of course, as the Fourth Brandenburg he had 
listened to so often in the past— the same and yet completely 
different. This Allegro— he knew it by heart. Which meant that 
he was in the best possible position to realize that he had never 
really heard it before. . . . Tlie Allegro was revealing itself as an 
element in the great present Event, a manifestation at one 
remove of the luminous bliss. Allegro was the luminous bliss; 
it was the knowledgeless understanding of everything appre- 
hended through a particular piece of knowledge; it was un- 
differentiated awareness broken up into notes and phrases and 
yet still all-comprehendingly itself. And of course all this 
belonged to nobody. It was at once in here, out there, and 
nowhere. . . . Wliich was why he was now hearing it for the 
first time. Unowned, the Fourth Brandenburg had an intensity 
of beauty, a depth of intrinsic meaning, incomparably greater 
than anything he had ever found in the same music when it 
was his private property. 

. . . And tonight's Fourth Brandenburg was not merely an 
unowned Thing in Itself; it was also, in some impossible way, 
a Present Event with an infinite duration. Or rather (and still 
more impossibly, seeing that it had three movements and was 
being played at its usual speed) it was without duration. The 
metronome presides over each of its phrases; but the sum of its 
phrases was not a span of seconds and minutes. Tlierc was a 
tempo, but no time. So what was there? 

"Eternity." ... He began to laugh. 

"\Vhat's so funny?" she asked. 

"Eternitv," he answered. "Believe it or not, it's as real as 
shit." 2 

I could follow Aldous in the world of music and colors; but when 
he spoke about the fusion of subject and object I did not understand. 
I did not understand, but I knew that he knew, and that, sometime, I 
would also know. "Subject and object," he said quietly and lovingly 
many times. "No separation between subject and object." In the 

^Island, pp. 311-313. 

yS ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

silence of the large house, in the roundness of that day, there was his 
knowing, there was my ignorance. I was aware of both, and of the 
absence of conflict between the two. His whole person was emanating 
love and his voice was full of wonder— "Subject and object— they 
are one." 

That day, partly due to my experience in psychotherapy, I had 
expected— in spite, alas, of trying not to expect anything— that Aldous 
might speak about Maria. I had hoped he would, and that he would 
express emotionally his pain. I had not realized yet that Aldous had 
his own and best way of directing the unfathomable alchemy by 
which we continuously transform our feelings and ideas into something 
else. Aldous transformed his love for Maria, and the pain of her loss, 
into the death of Lakshmi, an unforgettable passage in Island. 

During that first LSD day the thought of Maria was often present. 
We were in her house, where nothing had been changed since her 
death. We had been silent for a long while, listening to music. Now 
the record came to an end— I wanted to stop the machine to avoid 
the forthcoming shocking click of the automatic stop. To do this I 
had to walk a few steps away from Aldous to\\'ard the record player. 
As I took the first step I felt suddenly that Maria was present. Present, 
but not outside of me— present in me. Amazed and fascinated, I knew 
that I was walking as Maria— that she, not I, was walking. It must 
have been at the third or fourth step toward the record player and 
away from Aldous that his voice reached and touched my shoulder. 
Extremely firm and gentle, the voice said, ''Don't ever be anyone 
else but yourself." 

Aldous did not have to remind me of that again. 

Now that I have experience in LSD, this episode— which lasted two 
or three seconds at the most— is less surprising, though no less mys- 
terious. I cannot explain what it was that made me feel, for a second 
or two, that I was Maria— and what on earth made Aldous realize my 
fleeting impression? Certainly not his seeing me take two or three 
steps in a dimly lighted room. 

Since that first day as a psychedelic companion I have learned to 
be prepared to have no secrets from the voyager. A person in the 
psychedelic state can perceive much more in other human beings 
than he can when he is in his everyday mind. The voyager may see 
his companion at different ages of life, at different periods of history, 
and as different persons, sometimes conflicting with each other. At 
one time or another, during the psychedelic session, the voyager looks 
at his companion. Often it is an overwhelming discover^'. Anyone 
who is a companion must give up any attempt at self-hiding. Nofonly 
is it useless, but it creates a fatiguing and distracting tension for both. 

Disregarded In The Darkness ( ( 79 

"Who are you?" Spoken or not, the question is loudly asked in almost 
every voyage. Silent and naked, the companion must know that he 
cannot answer— for the essence of the answer lies as much in the 
questioner as in himself. 

Chapter 16 



TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 724] 

j^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles 46, Col. 
24 October, 1955 
Dear Humphry, 

I fear we shall not meet in New York, unless perhaps on your return 
from Europe. I do not expect to be in the East until the last days of 
December— and perhaps later: one never knows, where the theatre is 
concerned. How long do you propose to stay in Switzerland and Eng- 
land? It would be a happy thing if our trajectories were to intersect 
on your way home. 

I had another most extraordinary experience with mescalin the 
other day.i After reading an account by one of AVs patients— a young 
Canadian engineer, who had recovered all kinds of buried and chroni- 
cally debilitating traumatic material under LSD, worked it off with 
appropriate abreactions and had a beatific vision thrown in as a bonus, 
so that his whole life was transformed overnight— after reading this, 
I decided it might be interesting to find out why so much of my 
childhood is hidden from me, so that I cannot remember large areas 
of early life. So I sat do\\'n to a session with a woman who has had a 
good deal of experience with eliciting recalls and working off abreac- 
tions by methods of dianetics— which do in many cases produce bene- 
ficial results, in spite of all that can and must be said against the 
theorists of dianetics and many of its practitioners. I took half the 
contents of a 400 mg capsule at ten and the other half about ioity 
minutes later, and the effects began to be strong about an hour and 
a half after the first dose. There ^^'as little vision with the eyes closed, 

1 Tliis is the session that is recounted in the chapter "Disregarded in the Dark- 
ness" in Laura Huxley's This Timeless Moment. 

Letters ( ( 81 

as was the case during my experiment under your auspices, but much 
transfiguration of the outer world. Dianetic procedures were tried, 
along the lines described in the account given by Al's patient; but 
there was absolutely no recall. Instead there was something of incom- 
parably greater importance; for what came through the closed door 
was the realization— not the knowledge, for this wasn't verbal or 
abstract— but the direct, total awareness, from the inside, so to say, 
of Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact. The words, of 
course, have a kind of indecency and must necessarily ring false, seem 
like twaddle. But the fact remains. (It was the same fact, evidently, 
as that which Indians discover in their peyote ceremonies.) I was this 
fact; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that this fact occu- 
pied the place where I had been. The result was that I did not, as in 
the first experiment, feel cut off from the human world. I was intensely 
aware of it, but from the standpoint of the living, primordial cosmic 
fact of Love. And the things which had entirely occupied my atten- 
tion on that first occasion I now perceived to be temptations— temp- 
tations to escape from the central reality into false, or at least imperfect 
and partial Nirvanas of beauty and mere knowledge. I talked a good 
deal about these temptations; commented on the hght this realization 
threw on the legend of St. Anthony, on the Zen statement that, for 
a Bodhisattva, the Samadhi of Emptiness, Nirvana apart from the 
world, apart from love, compassion and sentient beings, is as terrible 
as the pains of hell. And I remember that I quoted the remark of 
Pascal, that the worship of truth without charity is idolatry, for truth 
is merely God's idol, which we have no right to worship. And of 
course the same is true in regard to beauty. (Actually the Platonic 
trinity of the good, the true and the beautiful is a faulty expression 
of the facts. Good implies bad and so perpetuates dualism. Love rec- 
onciles all the opposites and is the One.) 

I also spoke a good deal, to my own subsequent enlightenment, 
about objects and subjects. How easy, I kept saying, to turn whatever 
one looked at, even a human face, into a pure object— an object of 
the most magical beauty, strangeness, intensity of thereness, of pure 
existence! Do you remember that account given by Blake of seeing 
a fold of lambs in the corner of a field, and how he approached and 
suddenly saw that the lambs were pieces of the most exquisite sculp- 
ture? This is a good description of the process of objectification. It 
is a kind of Gorgon's-head effect— you look at a thing solely with a 
view to seeing truth and beauty, and it turns into stone— living, 
changing, self-luminous stone, but still stone, still sculpture. Love 
de-objectifies the perceived thing or person. At the same time it de- 
subjectifies the pcrcciver, who no longer views the outside world with 

82 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

desire or aversion, no longer judges automatically and irrevocably, is 
no longer an emotionally charged ego, but finds himself an element 
in the given reality, which is not an affair of objects and subjects, but 
a cosmic unity of love. The thought of my own and other people's 
constant effort to impose objectivity and subjectivity on the cosmic 
fact, thereby creating untold miseries for all concerned, filled me for 
a moment with intense sadness. But that too, I saw, was a temptation 
to subjectivity on a higher level, a larger scale. 

I looked at some picture books, and was struck especially by a full 
length portrait by Boucher, of a lady in court dress of the time of 
Louis XV. It seemed the most perfect example of objectification. The 
couturier's function is to turn women into objects— objects for men 
and objects for themselves. Looking at the object they have been 
turned into by the fashion designer and by their own bovaristic crav- 
ing to be something other than what in fact they are, the women 
become self-satisfied and self-dissatisfied subjects, purring with quiet 
glee or caterwauling with self-pity or spitting and scratching because 
somebody has blasphemed against the object which is their idol and 
so has offended the subject which worships the object. And of course 
the same is true of men— only there didn't happen to be any pictures 
of masculine fancy dress to remind me of the fact. 

I also looked at a volume of photographs of nudes— a lot of them 
very tricky, bits of bodies taken from odd angles and under queer 
conditions of light. Objects again. Lust is sexual relations with an ob- 
ject for the benefit of a subject— who may also enjoy, as a kind of 
bonus, the manifestations of subjective enjoyment proceeding from 
the object. Love de-objectifies and de-subjectifies, substitutes the pri- 
mordial fact of unity and the awareness of mutual immanence for a 
frenzy heightening to despair by the impossibility of that total pos- 
session of the objects, at which the subject mistakenly aims. 

Among the by-products of this state of being the given fact of love 
was a kind of intuitive understanding of other people, a "discernment 
of spirits," in the language of Christian spirituality. I found myself 
saying things about my dianetic operator, which I didn't know but 
which, when I said them, turned out to be true. Wliich, I suppose, is 
what one would expect if one happens to be manifesting the primor- 
dial fact of unity through love and the knowledge of mutual im- 

Another thing I remember saying was that I now understood such 
previously incomprehensible events as St. Francis's kissing of the 
leper. Explanations in terms of masochistic perversion etc. are ridicu- 
lous. This sort of thing is merely the overflow of a cosmic fact too 
large, so to speak, for the receptacle, fashioned by the subjective ego 

Letters ( ( 83 

in its life-long relations xA'ith objects and not yet completely melted 
away, so that the new fact finds itself constricted by the old confining 
habits, with the result that it boils over, so to speak, under pressure 
and has to express itself in ways which, though not particularly desir- 
able, are completely understandable and even, in the particular con- 
text, logical. 

Another thing I remember saying and feeling was that I didn't 
think I should mind dying; for dying must be like this passage from 
the known (constituted by life-long habits of subject-object existence) 
to the unknown cosmic fact. 

I have not retained the intensity of my experience of the state of 
love; but something certainly remains and I hope I shall not allow 
myself to eclipse it by succumbing to old bad habits. I hope and 
think that by awareness of what is doing from moment to moment, 
one may be able to remain out of one's own light. 

What emerges as a general conclusion is the confirmation of the 
fact that mescalin does genuinely open the door, and that everything 
including the Unkno\\'n in its purest, most comprehensive form can 
come through. After the theophany it is up to the momentarily en- 
lightened individual to "cooperate with grace"— not so much by will 
as by awareness. 

Yours affectionately, 


740 North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles 46, Cal. 
29 October, 1955 
Dear Humphry, 

How strange that our letters should -have crossed! I shall be much 
interested to hear the details of your joint experiment and to repeat 
the procedure with Gerald and Al, ^^•hen the latter comes to Los 
Angeles. From my own experience I cannot see that it is necessary for 
anyone to do anything to keep the mescalin consciousness on a high 
level— it stays there by itself, all the time, as far as I'm concerned. A 
director or master of ceremonies would be useful, as far as I can see, 
only if you want to keep the consciousness away from the highest 
level, only if you want to have it directed into other channels on the 

84 ) ) PART 2 / Psyclicclclic and Visionary Experience 

side, so to speak, to lead it into such "psychic" areas as telepathy etc., 
or into an awareness of archetypes (if they exist, which I sometimes 
wonder!) of shadows, animas or animuses as the case may be (all of 
them, so far as I personally am concerned, entirely hypothetical and 
Pickwickian entities). It is, of course, perfectly legitimate and desirable 
to make such experiments, provided of course that one remembers 
the warnings of the mystics, the only people who know anything about 
the subject. First, that though miracles take place, of course, they 
are gratuitous graces, not saving graces, and have ultimately no im- 
portance, or anyhow no more importance than anything else— every- 
thing being, naturally, infinitely important if you approach it in the 
right way. Second, that siddhis or odd powers, are fascinating and, 
being fascinating, dangerous to anyone who is interested in liberation, 
since they are apt to become, if too much attention is paid to them, 
distracting impediments. However rich and rewarding, an expedition 
into the areas on the side of the direct route to the Clear Light, must 
never be treated idolatrously, as though it had reached the final goal. 
My own view is that it would be important to break off experimenta- 
tion from time to time and permit the participants to go, on their 
own, towards the Clear Light. But perhaps alternation of experimenta- 
tion and mystical vision would be psychologically impossible; for who, 
having once come to the realization of the primordial fact of unity in 
Love, would ever want to retum to experimentation on the psychic 
level? So it will be better to close the proceedings with undirected 
ascent towards the unknown highest awareness. In this way there will 
be no need to interrupt the experience of what is supremely impor- 
tant to each participant, in order to bring him back to experiences of 
lower, ambiguous value. My point is that the opening of the door by 
mescalin or LSD is too precious an opportunity, too high a privilege 
to be neglected for the sake of experimentation. There must be ex- 
perimentation, of course, but it would be wrong if there were nothing 
else. There is a point where the director must stop directing and leave 
himself and the other participants to do what they want, or rather 
what the Unknown Quantity which has taken their place wants to do. 
Direction can come only, or mainly, from accumulated notional mem- 
ories of past experience, from the conceptually known; but the highest 
mystical awareness comes only when there is freedom from the known, 
when there is no purpose in view, however intrinsically excellent, but 
pure openness. God's service is perfect freedom and, conversely, per- 
fect freedom is God's service— and where there is a director with a 
scientific or even an ethical purpose, perfect freedom cannot exist. In 
practice, I would say, this means that, for at least the last hour of 
mescalin-induced openness, the director should step aside and leave 

Letters ( ( 85 

the unknown quantities of the participants to do what they want. If 
they want to say things to one another, well and good. If they don't, 
well and good too. Frangois de Sales's advice to Mme. de Chantal, in 
regard to "spiritual exercises," was not to do anything at all, but 
simply to wait. Every experiment, I feel very strongly, should terminate 
or (if this should be felt to be better) should be interrupted, by a 
period of simple waiting, with no direction either from the outside or 
from within. If we don't do this, we shall be, I feel, committing a 
kind of sin against the Holy Ghost. Direction necessarily excludes the 
Holy Ghost. Let us give the Unknownest Quantity at least one hour 
of our openness. The remaining three or four can go to directed ex- 

And now let me ask you a favour. There is an unfortunate man in 
this town (I don't know him personally, but he is a friend of a 
friend), who has been using peyote on himself and other people who 
want to explore the remoter regions of their consciousness, get rid of 
traumas and understand the meaning of Christian charity. He is, 
apparently, a very worthy, earnest fellow; but, unwittingly, he has 
committed a felony. For in the state of California it is a felony to be 
in possession of the peyote cactus, and this man had a consignment 
of the plants sent to him from a nursery gardener in Texas, where 
peyote is legal. He will have to plead guilty, for he has undoubtedly 
broken the law. But meanwhile he can make a statement about 
peyote not being a dangerous drug. He has some of the references 
and I have given some others. Can you, without too much trouble, 
supply other references, medical, anthropological and psychological? 
I'd be most grateful if you would send me any references you know, 
so that I can pass them on to this poor fellow who is liable, under 
this law, to be sent to San Quentin for five years, but who may, if 
character witnesses are good (which they are) and if expert evidence 
can be marshalled to show that the stuff is not a dangerous drug, get 
off with a fine and probation. 
My love to the family. 


86 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 


740 North Kings Rd., 
Los Angeles ^6, Cal. 
23 December, 1955 
My Dear Humphry, 

I was very glad to get your long, good, most interesting letter. You 
certainly succeeded in doing an astonishing number of things in a 
very short time. 

We had our LSD experiment last week, with Al, Gerald and my- 
self taking 75 micrograms and [ ] taking about thirty. I found the 

stuff more potent from a physical point of view than mescalin— e.g. 
it produced the feehngs of intense cold, as though one were in shock, 
which Maria had with the full dose of mescalin. Tlie psychological 
effects, in my case, were identical with those of mescalin, and I had 
the same kind of experience as I had on the previous occasion- 
transfiguration of the external world, and the understanding, through 
a realization involving the whole man, that Love is the One, and that 
this is why Atman is identical with Brahman, and why, in spite of 
everything, the universe is all right. I had no visions with my eyes 
shut— even less than I had on the first occasion with mescalin, when 
the moving geometries were highly organized and, at moments, very 
beautiful and significant (though at others, very trivial). This time 
even the patterns were poorly organized, and there was nothing corre- 
sponding to what Al and [ ] and his pilot friend [ ] (isn't that 

the name?) have described. Evidently, if you are not a congenial or 
habitual visualizer, you do not get internal visions under mescalin or 
LSD— only external transfiguration. (Gerald had no visions either. 
I have not had an opportunity to discuss with him in detail the nature 
of his experience; but certainly visions with the eyes closed were not 
part of it.) Time was very different. We played the Bach B-minor 
suite and the "Musical Offering," and the experience was overpower- 
ing. Other music (e.g. Palestrina and Byrd) seemed unsatisfactory 
by comparison. Bach was a revelation. The tempo of the pieces did 
not change; nevertheless they went on for centuries, and they were a 
manifestation, in the plane of art, of perpetual creation, a demonstra- 
tion of the necessity of death and the self-evidence of immortality, 
an expression of the essential all-rightness of the universe— for the 

Letters ( ( 87 

music was far beyond tragedy, but included death and suffering with 
everything else in the divine impartiality which is the One, which is 
Love, which is Being or Istigkeit. Who on earth was John Sebastian? 
Certainly not the old gent with sixteen children in a stuffy Protes- 
tant environment. Rather, an enormous manifestation of the Other 
—but the Other canalized, controlled, made available through the 
intervention of the intellect and the senses and emotions. All of us, 
I think, experienced Bach in the same way. One can imagine a ritual 
or initiation, in which a whole group of people transported to the 
Other World by one of the elixirs, would sit together listening to, 
say, the B-minor Suite and so being brought to a direct, unmediated 
understanding of the divine nature. (One of the other records we 
tried was one of traditional Byzantine music— the Greek version of 
Gregorian. To me at least, this seemed merely grotesque. The single 
voice bawling away its Alleluias and Kyries seemed like the voice of 
a gigantic flunkey kowtowing before a considerably magnified Louis 
XIV. Only polyphony and only the highly organized polyphon)' 
(structurally organized and not merely textually organized, as with 
Palestrina) can convey the nature of reality, which is multiplicity in 
unity, the reconciliation of opposites, the not-twoness of diversity, the 
Nirvana-nature of Samsara, the Love which is the bridge between 
objective and subjective, good and evil, death and life.) On this 
occasion I did not have any spontaneous psi awareness, and our 
attempt to induce psi deliberately seemed after a few minutes so 
artificial and bogus that we gave it up. Al reported psi awareness of 
the others in the group, and Gerald exhibited the same kind of 
prophetic discernment of spirits, which characterized his first mescahn 
experience. Whether I personally shall ever be able to do psi experi- 
ments under LSD or mescalin, I don't know. Certainly, if future 
experiments should turn out to be like these last two, I should feel 
that such experiments were merely childish and pointless. Which I 
suppose they are, for purposes of Understanding— though not at all 
so, for purposes of Knowledge. Meanwhile let me advise you, if ever 
you use mescalin or LSD in therapy, to try the effect of the B-minor 
suite. More than anything, I believe, it will serve to lead the patient's 
mind (wordlessly, without any suggestion or covert bullying by doctor 
or parson) to the central, primordial Fact, the understanding of 
which is perfect health during the time of the experience, and the 
memory of the understanding of which may serve as an antidote to 
mental sickness in the future. I feel sure, however, that it would be 
most unwise to subject a patient to sentimental religious music or 
even good religious music, if it were tragic (e.g., the Mozart or Verdi 

88 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

"Requiems/' or Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis"). John Sebastian is 
safer because, ultimately, truer to reality. 

To return to your letter. Of course the stroboscope effect is not 
retinal. One of the stroboscopic effects, as experienced by my friend 
Dr. Cholden, was that the patterns he was seeing under LSD turned, 
when he sat under the stroboscope, into ineffably beautiful Japanese 

I wish old Jung were not so hipped on symbols. The trouble with 
Germans is that they always remember the silliest line in Goethe- 
dalles Vergaengliche ist nur ein Gleichnis." A bigger lie was never 
uttered. All transiences are timelessly themselves and, being themselves, 
are manifestations of the One, which is totally present in any particu- 
lar—if we could only see it. The symbol business has been a very 
smelly red herring, leading him off the trail of Given Realities "out 
there" in the mind (just as they are out there in the material world, 
in spite of Berkeley etc.), and leading it into the jungle, about which 
he and his followers write in that inimitably turgid and copious style, 
which is the Jungian hallmark. 

The play seems to be in process of being postponed— the produce) 
having made such a muddle that production at the date contracted 
for seems now out of the question. As the postponement will be to an 
election season, which is notoriously the worst possible theatrical sea- 
son, I am not too happy. But this is what happens when one gets into 
the clutches of theatrical people. One asks for trouble and, by heaven, 
one gets what one asks for. 

Give my love to Jane and the poetess. I hope the coming year 
will bring you all contentment, happiness, growth, understanding. 

Yours affectionately, 

Chapter 17 


Heaven and Hell 


Huxley described this book as "a long essay . . . about visionary 
experience and its relation to art and the traditional conceptions 
of the Other World. It springs of course from the niescalin ex- 
perience, which has thrown, I find, a great deal of light on all 
kinds of things" (Bedford, p. 591). The peyote cactus and its 
psychoactive alkaloid, much more than LSD, produces visual 
effects which Huxley compares to painting and other forms of 
popular visionary art such as magic lantern shows, fireworks, tech- 
nicolor movies, and the stroboscope— in the latter instance antici- 
pating Acid Rock Light Shows of the ic)6os. The bio-chemical 
basis of visionary experience and the various methods of attaining 
it apart from "chemical access" are discussed, as is the psycho- 
logical basis for positive or negative visionary experience, foreshad- 
owing the "set and setting" parameters of later researchers of the 
Harvard Psychedelic Research Project. 

In this sequel to The Doors of Perception Huxley again takes 
his title from Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." 

The Negative Visionary experience is often accompanied by bodily 
sensations of a very special and characteristic kind. Blissful visions arc 
generally associated with a sense of separation from the body, a feeling 
of deindividualization. (It is, no doubt, this feeling of deindividualiza- 
tion which makes it possible for the Indians who practice the peyote 
cult to use the drug not merely as a short cut to the visionary world, 
but also as an instrument for creating a loving solidarity within the 
participating group.) When the visionary experience is terrible and 
the world is transfigured for the worse, individualization is intensified 

90 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

and the negative visionary finds himself associated with a body that 
seems to grow progressively more tense, more tightly packed, until he 
finds himself at last reduced to being the agonized consciousness of an 
inspissated lump of matter, no bigger than a stone that can be held 
between the hands. 

It is worth remarking, that many of the punishments described in 
the various accounts of hell are punishments of pressure and constric- 
tion. Dante's sinners are buried in mud, shut up in the trunks of trees, 
frozen solid in blocks of ice, crushed beneath stones. The Inferno is 
psychologically true. Many of its pains are experienced by schizo- 
phrenics, and by those who ha\'e taken mescalin or lysergic acid under 
unfavorable conditions. 

\Vhat is the nature of these unfavorable conditions? How and why 
is heaven turned into hell? In certain cases the negative visionary ex- 
perience is the result of predominantly ph\sical causes. Mescalin tends, 
after ingestion, to accumulate in the liver. If the liver is diseased, the 
associated mind may find itself in hell. But what is more important 
for our present purposes is the fact that negative visionary experience 
may be induced by purely psychological means. Fear and anger bar the 
way to the heavenly Other World and plunge the mescalin taker into 

And what is true of the mescalin taker is also true of the person who 
sees visions spontaneously or under hypnosis. Upon this psychological 
foundation has been reared the theological doctrine of saving faith— 
a doctrine to be met with in all the great religious traditions of the 
world. Eschatologists have alwajs found it difficult to reconcile their 
rationality and their morality \Aith the brute facts of psychological 
experience. As rationalists and moralists, they feel that good behavior 
should be rewarded and that the virtuous deserve to go to heaven. But 
as psychologists they know that virtue is not the sole or sufficient con- 
dition of blissful visionary experience. They know that works alone 
are powerless and that it is faith, or loving confidence, which guaran- 
tees that visionary experience shall be blissful. 

Negative emotions— the fear which is the absence of confidence, the 
hatred, anger or malice which exclude love— are the guarantee that 
visionary experience, if and when it comes, shall be appalling. The 
Pharisee is a virtuous man; but his virtue is of the kind which is com- 
patible with negative emotion. His visionar)' experiences are therefore 
likely to be infernal rather than blissful. 

The nature of the mind is such that the sinner who repents and 
makes an act of faith in a higher power is more likely to have a bliss- 
ful visionary experience than is the self-satisfied pillar of society with 
his righteous indignations, his anxiety about possessions and preten- 

Heaven and Hell ( ( 91 

sions, his ingrained habits of blaming, despising and condemning. 
Hence the enormous importance attached, in all the great religious 
traditions, to the state of mind at the moment of death. 

Visionary experience is not the same as mystical experience. Mystical 
experience is beyond the realm of opposites. Visionary experience is 
still within that realm. Heaven entails hell, and "going to heaven" is 
no more liberation than is the descent into horror. Heaven is merely a 
vantage point, from which the divine Ground can be more clearly 
seen than on the level of ordinary individualized existence. 

If consciousness survives bodily death, it survives, presumably, on 
every mental level— on the level of mystical experience, on the level of 
visionary experience, on the level of infernal visionary experience, and 
on the level of everyday individual existence. In life, as we know by ex- 
perience and observation, even the blissful visionary experience tends 
to change its sign if it persists too long. 

Many schizophrenics have their times of heavenly happiness; but 
the fact that (unlike the mescalin taker) they do not know when, if 
ever, they will be permitted to return to the reassuring banality of 
everyday experience causes even heaven to seem appalling. But for 
those who, for whatever reason, are appalled, heaven turns into hell, 
bliss into horror, the Clear I^ight into the hateful glare of the land of 

Something of the same kind may happen in the posthumous state. 
After having had a glimpse of the unbearable splendor of ultimate 
Reality, and after having shuttled back and forth between heaven and 
hell, most souls find it possible to retreat into that more reassuring 
region of the mind, where they can use their own and other people's 
wishes, memories and fancies to construct a world very like that in 
which they lived on earth. 

Of those who die an infinitesimal minority are capable of immediate 
union with the divine Ground, a few are capable of supporting the 
visionary bliss of heaven, a few find themselves in the visionary horrors 
of hell and are unable to escape; the great majority end up in the kind 
of world described by Swedenborg and the mediums. From this world 
it is doubtless possible to pass, when the necessary conditions have 
been fulfilled, to worlds of visionary bliss or the final enlightenment. 

My own guess is that modern spiritualism and ancient tradition are 
both correct. There is a posthumous state of the kind described in Sir 
Oliver Lodge's book Raymond; but there is also a heaven of blissful 
visionary experience; there is also a hell of the same kind of appalling 
visionary experience as is suffered here by schizophrenics and some of 
those who take mescalin; and there is also an experience, beyond time, 
of union with the divine Ground. 

Chapter 18 


Brave 'New World 


Between July 1955 and April 1957 Huxley produced a monthly 
essay for Esquire, writing on a wide variety of topics under the 
heading "From the Study of Aldous Huxley." The following retro- 
spective analysis deals with predictions made in his famous novel 
published a quarter century earlier, and hazards further guesses as 
to the future of civilization. "The Soma of Brave New World is 
no longer a distant dream"; the tranquilizers Miltown, Equanil, 
etc. possess many of the same characteristics. The issue is "drug 
of choice"— a prophetic expression of an idea that was to become 
a cliche by the late ig6os. The drugs Huxley found most interest- 
ing were mescalin and LSD, but he expected "other mind trans- 
formers with even more remarkable properties" would be devel- 
oped by scientists. 

The Most Distressing thing that can happen to a prophet is to be 
proved wrong; the next most distressing thing is to be proved right. 
In the twenty-five years that have elapsed since Brave New World was 
written, I have undergone both these experiences. Events have proved 
me distressingly wrong; and events have proved me distressingly right. 
Here are some of the points on which I was wrong. By the early 
Thirties Einstein had equated mass and energy, and there was already 
talk of chain reactions; but the Brave New Worlders knew nothing 
of nuclear fission. In the early Thirties, too, we knew all about con- 
servation and irreplaceable resources; but their supply of metals and 
mineral fuel was just as copious in the seventh century After Ford as 

Brave New World Revisited ( ( 93 

ours is today. In actual fact the raw material situation will already be 
subcritical by AF 600 and the atom will be the principal source of 
industrial power. Again, the Brave New Worlders had solved the 
population problem and knew how to maintain a permanently favor- 
able relationship between human numbers and natural resources. In 
actual fact, will our descendants achieve this happy consummation 
within the next six centuries? And if they do achieve it, will it be by 
dint of rational planning, or through the immemorial agencies of 
pestilence, famine and internecine warfare? It is, of course, impossible 
to say. The only thing we can predict with a fair measure of certainty 
is that humanity (if its rulers decide to refrain from collective suicide) 
will be traveling at vertiginous speed along one of the most dangerous 
and congested stretches of its histor}^ 

The Brave New Worlders produced their children in biochemical 
factories. But though bottled babies are not completely out of the 
question, it is virtually certain that our descendants will in fact remain 
viviparous. Mother's Day is in no danger of being replaced by Bottle 
Day. My prediction was made for strictly literary purposes, and not 
as a reasoned forecast of future history. In this matter I knew in ad- 
vance that I should be proved wrong. 

From biology we now pass to politics. The dictatorship described 
in Brave Nevi' World was global and, in its o\mi peculiar wa\', benev- 
olent. In the light of current events and developing tendencies, I 
sadly suspect that in this forecast, too, I may have been wrong. True, 
the seventh century After Ford is still a long way off, and it is possible 
that, by then, hard economic necessity, or the social chaos resulting 
from nuclear warfare, or military conquest by one Great Power, or 
some grisly combination of all three, ^^'ill have bludgeoned our descen- 
dants into doing what we ought to be doing now, from motives of 
enlightened self-interest and common humanity— namely, to collabo- 
rate for the common good. In time of peace, and when things are 
going tolerably well, people cannot be expected to vote for measures 
which, though ultimately beneficial, may be expected to have certain 
disagreeable consequences in the short run. Divisive forces are more 
powerful than those which made the union. Vested interests in lan- 
guages, philosophies of life, table manners, sexual habits, political, 
ecclesiastical and economic organizations' are sufficiently powerful to 
block all attempts, by rational and peaceful methods, to unite man- 
kind for its own good. And then there is nationalism. W^ith its Fifty- 
Seven Varieties of tribal gods, nationalism is the religion of the 
twentieth century. We may be Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, 
Buddhists, Confucians or Atheists; but the fact remains that there is 
only one faith for which large masses of us are prepared to die and kill, 

94 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

and that faith is nationahsm. That nationaHsm will remain the domi- 
nant religion of the human race for the next two or three centuries at 
the very least seems all too probable. If total, nuclear war should be 
avoided, we may expect to see, not the rise of a single world state, but 
the continuance, in worsening conditions, of the present system, under 
which national states compete for markets and raw materials and 
prepare for partial wars. Most of these states will probably be dictator- 
ships. Inevitably so; for the increasing pressure of population upon 
resources will make domestic conditions more difficult and interna- 
tional competition more intense. To prevent economic breakdown 
and to repress popular discontent, the governments of hungry coun- 
tries will be tempted to enforce ever-stricter controls. Furthermore, 
chronic undernourishment reduces physical energy and disturbs the 
mind. Hunger and self-government are incompatible. Even where the 
average diet provides three thousand calories a day, it is hard enough 
to make democracy work. In a society, most of whose members are 
living on seventeen hundred to two thousand calories a day, it is 
simply impossible. The undernourished majority will always be ruled, 
from above, by the well-fed few. As population increases (t\venty-seven 
hundred million of us are now adding to our numbers at the rate of forty 
million a year, and this increase is increasing according to the rules of 
compound interest); as geometrically increasing demands press more 
and more heavily on static or, at best, arithmetically increasing sup- 
plies; as standards of living are forced down and popular discontent is 
forced up; as the general scramble for diminishing resources becomes 
ever fiercer, these national dictatorships will tend to become more op- 
pressive at home, more ruthlessly competitive abroad. "Government," 
says one of the Brave New Worlders, "is an affair of sitting, not 
hitting. You rule with the brains and buttocks, not the fists." But where 
there are many competing national dictatorships, each in trouble at 
home and each preparing for total or partial war against its neighbors, 
hitting tends to be preferred to sitting, fists as an instrument of policy, 
to brains and the "masterly inactivity" (to cite Lord Salisbury's im- 
mortal phrase) of the hindquarters. In politics, the near future is likely 
to be closer to George Orwell's 19S4 than to Brave New World. 

Let me now consider a few of the points on which, I fear, I may 
have been right. The Brave New Worlders were the heirs and ex- 
ploiters of a new kind of revolution, and this revolution was, in effect, 
the theme of my fable. Past revolutions have all been in fields external 
to the individual as a psychophysical organism— in the field, for exam- 
ple, of ecclesiastical organization and religious dogma, in the field of 
economics, in the field of political organization, in the field of tech- 
nology. Tlie coming revolution— the revolution whose consequences 

Brave New World Revisited ( ( 95 

are described in Brave New World— wiW affect men and \\omen, not 
peripherally, but at the very core of their organic being. The older 
revolutionaries sought to change the social environment in the hope 
(if they were idealists and not mere power seekers) of changing human 
nature. Tlie coming revolutionaries will make their assault directly on 
human nature as they find it, in the minds and bodies of their victims 
or, if you prefer, their beneficiaries. 

Among the Brave New Worlders, the control of human nature was 
achieved by eugenic and dysgenic breeding, by systematic conditioning 
during infancy and, later on, by "hypnopaedia," or instruction during 
sleep. Infant conditioning is as old as Pavlov and hypnopaedia, though 
rudimentary, is already a well-established technique. Phonographs with 
built-in clocks, which turn them on and off at regular intervals during 
the night, are already on the market and are being used by students of 
foreign languages, by actors in a hurry to memorize their parts, by 
parents desirous of curing their children of bed-wetting and other 
troublesome habits, by self-helpers seeking moral and physical improve- 
ment through autosuggestion and "affirmations of positive thought." 
That the principles of selective breeding, infant conditioning and 
hypnopaedia have not yet been applied by governments is due, in the 
democratic countries, to the lingering, liberal conviction that persons 
do not exist for the state, but that the state exists for the good of per- 
sons; and in the totalitarian countries to what may be called revolu- 
tionary conservatism— attachment to yesterday's revolution instead of 
the revolution of tomorrow. There is, however, no reason for compla- 
cently believing that this revolutionai}" conservatism \^ill persist indefi- 
nitely. In totalitarian hands, applied psychology is already achieving 
notable results. One third of all the American prisoners captured in 
Korea succumbed, at least partially, to Chinese brainwashing, which 
broke down the convictions installed by their education and childhood 
conditioning, and replaced these comforting axioms b\- doubt, anxiety 
and a chronic sense of guilt. This was achieved by thoroughly old- 
fashioned procedures, which combined straightforward instruction 
with what may be called conventional psychotherapy in reverse, and 
made no use of hypnosis, hypnopaedia or mind-modifying drugs. If all 
or even some of these more po\\"erful methods had been emplo\'ed, 
brainwashing would probably have been successful \\ith all the pris- 
oners, and not \\ith a mere thirty per cent of them. In their vague, 
rhetorical way, speech-making politicians and sermon-preaching clergy- 
men like to say that the current struggle is not material, but spiritual 
—an affair not of machines, but of ideas. Tliey forget to add that the 
effectiveness of ideas depends very largely on the way in ^^•hich they 
are inculcated. A true and beneficent idea may be so ineptly taught as 

96 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

to be without effect on the lives of individuals and societies. Con- 
versely, grotesque and harmful notions may be so skillfully drummed 
into people's heads that, filled with faith, they will rush out and move 
mountains— to the greater glory of the devil and their own destruction. 
At the present time the dynamism of totalitarian ideas is greater than 
the dynamism of liberal, democratic ideas. This is not due, of course, 
to the intrinsic superiority of totalitarian ideas. It is due partly to the 
fact that, in a world where population is fast outrunning resources, ever 
larger measures of governmental control become necessary— and it is 
easier to exercise centralized control by totalitarian than by democratic 
methods. Partly, too, it is due to the fact that the means employed for 
the dissemination of totalitarian ideas are more effective, and are used 
more systematically, than the means employed for disseminating 
democratic and liberal ideas. Tliese more effective methods of totali- 
tarian propaganda, education and brain washing are, as we have seen, 
pretty old-fashioned. Sooner or later, however, the dictators will aban- 
don their revolutionary conservatism and, along with it, the old-world 
procedures inherited from the pre-psychological and palaeo-pharma- 
cological past. After which, heaven help us all! 

Among the legacies of the proto-pharmacological past must be num- 
bered our habit, when we feel in need of a lift, a release from tension, 
a mental vacation from unpleasant reality, of drinking alcohol or, if 
we happen to belong to a non-Western culture, of smoking hashish or 
opium, of chewing coca leaves or betel or any one of scores of intoxi- 
cants. The Brave New Worlders did none of these things; they merely 
swallowed a tablet or two of a substance called Soma. This, needless 
to say, was not the same as the Soma mentioned in the ancient Hindu 
scriptures— a rather dangerous drug derived from some as yet uniden- 
tified plant native to South Central Asia— but a synthetic, possessing 
"all the virtues of alcohol and Christianity, none of their defects." In 
small doses the Soma of the Brave New Worlders was a relaxant, an 
inducer of euphoria, a fosterer of friendliness and social solidarity. In 
medium doses it transfigured the external world and acted as a mild 
hallucinant; and in large doses it was a narcotic. Virtually all the 
Brave New Worlders thought themselves happy. This was due in part 
to the fact that they had been bred and conditioned to take the place 
assigned to them in the social hierarchy, in part to the sleep-teaching 
which had made them content with their lot and in part to Soma and 
their ability, by its means, to take holidays from unpleasant circum- 
stances and their unpleasant selves. 

All the natural narcotics, stimulants, relaxants and hallucinants 
known to the modern botanist and pharmacologist were discovered by 
primitive man and have been in use from time immemorial. One of 

BravQ New World Revisited ( ( 97 

the first things that Homo sapiens did with his newly developed 
rationality and self-consciousness was to set them to work finding out 
ways to by-pass analytical thinking and to transcend or, in extreme 
cases, temporarily obliterate, the isolating awareness of the self. Trying 
all things that grew in field or forest, they held fast to that which, in 
this context, seemed good— everything, that is to say, that would 
change the quality of consciousness, would make it different, no matter 
how, from everyday feeling, perceiving and thinking. Among the 
Hindus, rhythmic breathing and mental concentration have, to some 
extent, taken the place of the mind-transforming drugs used elsewhere. 
But even in the land of yoga, even among the religious and even for 
especially religious purposes, cannabis indica has been freely used to 
supplement the efforts of spiritual exercises. Tlie habit of taking vaca- 
tions from the more or less purgatorial world, which we have created 
for ourselves, is universal. Moralists may denounce it; but, in the teeth 
of disapproving talk and repressive legislation, the habit persists, and 
mind-transforming drugs are every\\'here available. The Marxian for 
mula, "Religion is the opium of the people," is reversible, and one can 
say, with even more truth, that "Opium is the religion of the people." 
In other words, mind-transformation, however induced (whether by 
devotional or ascetic or psycho-gymnastic or chemical means), has 
always been felt to be one of the highest, perhaps the very highest, of 
all attainable goods. Up to the present, governments have thought 
about the problem of mind-transforming chemicals only in terms of 
prohibition or, a little more realistically, of control and taxation. None, 
so far, has considered it in its relation to individual well-being and 
social stability; and very few (thank heaven!) have considered it in 
terms of Machiavellian statecraft. Because of vested interests and 
mental inertia, we persist in using alcohol as our main mind-trans- 
former—just as our neolithic ancestors did. We know that alcohol is 
responsible for a high proportion of our traffic accidents, our crimes 
of violence, our domestic miseries; and )Ct we make no effort to re- 
place this old-fashioned and extremely unsatisfactory drug by some 
new, less harmful and more enlightening mind-transformer. Among 
the Brave New Worlders, Noah's prehistoric invention of fermented 
hquor has been made obsolete by a modern synthetic, specifically 
designed to contribute to social order and the happiness of the indi- 
vidual, and to do so at the minimum physiological cost. 

In the society described in my fable, Soma was used as an instru- 
ment of statecraft. The tyrants were benevolent, but they were still 
tyrants. Their subjects were not bludgeoned into obedience; they were 
chemically coercecl to love their servitude, to co-operate willingly and 
even enthusiastically in the preservation of the social hierarchy. By 

98 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

the mahgnant or the ignorant, anything and everything can be used 
badly. Alcohol, for example, has been used, in small doses, to facilitate 
the exchange of thought in a symposium (literally, a drinking party) 
of philosophers. It has also been used, as the slave traders used it, to 
facilitate kidnapping. Scopolamine may be used to induce "twilight 
sleep"; it may also be used to increase suggestibility and soften up 
political prisoners. Heroin may be used to control pain; it may also be 
used (as it is said to have been used by the Japanese during their occu- 
pation of China) to produce an incapacitating addiction in a danger- 
ous adversary. Directed by the wrong people, the coming revolution 
could be disastrous, in its own way, as a nuclear and bacteriological 
war. By systematically using the psychological, chemical and electronic 
instruments already in existence (not to mention those new and better 
devices which the future holds in store), a tyrannical oligarchy could 
keep the majority in permanent and willing subjection. This is the 
prophecy I made in Brave New World. I hope I may be proved wrong, 
but am sorely afraid that I may be proved right. 

Meanwhile it should be pointed out that Soma is not intrinsically 
evil. On the contrary, a harmless but effective mind-transforming drug 
might prove a major blessing. And anyhow (as histor\' makes abun- 
dantly clear) there will never be any question of getting rid of chemical 
mind-transformers altogether. Tlie choice confronting us is not a 
choice between Soma and nothing; it is a choice between Soma and 
alcohol. Soma and opium, Soma and hashish, ololiuqui, peyote, datura, 
agaric and all the rest of the natural mind-transformers; between 
Soma and such products of scientific chemistry and pharmacology as 
ether, chloral, veronal, Benzedrine and the barbiturates. In a word, we 
have to choose between a more or less harmless all-round drug and a 
wide variety of more or less harmful and only partially effective drugs. 
And this choice will not be delajed until the seventh century After 
Ford. Pharmacology is on the march. The Soma of Brave New World is 
no longer a distant dream. Indeed, something possessing many of the 
characteristics of Soma is already with us. I refer to the most recent 
of the tranquilizing agents— the Happiness Pill, as its users affection- 
ately call it, known in America under the trade names of Miltown and 
Equanil. These Happiness Pills exert a double action; they relax the 
tension in striped muscle and so relax the associated tensions in the 
mind. At the same time they act on the enzyme system of the brain 
in such a way as to prevent disturbances arising in the hypothalamus 
from interfering with the workings of the cortex. On the mental level, 
the effect is a blessed release from anxiety and self-regarding emotivity. 

In my fable the savage expresses his belief that the advantages of 
Soma must be paid for by losses on the highest human levels. Perhaps 

Brave New World Revisited ( ( 99 

he was right. The universe is not in the habit of giving us something 
for nothing. And yet there is a great deal to be said for a pill which 
enables us to assume an attitude towards circumstances of detachment, 
ataraxia, "holy indifference." Tlie moral worth of an action cannot be 
measured exclusively in terms of intention. Hell is paved with good 
intentions, and we have to take some account of results. Rational and 
kindly behavior tends to produce good results and these results remain 
good even when the behavior which produced them was itself pro- 
duced by a pill. On the other hand, can we with impunity replace 
systematic self-discipline by a chemical? It remains to be seen. 

Of all the consciousness-transforming drugs the most interesting, if 
not the most immediately useful, are those which, like lysergic acid 
and mescalin, open the door to what may be called the Other World 
of the mind. Many workers are already exploring the effects of these 
drugs, and we may be sure that other mind-transformers, with even 
more remarkable properties, will be produced in the near future. What 
man will ultimately do with these extraordinary elixirs, it is impossible 
to say. My own guess is that they arc destined to play a part in human 
life at least as great as the part played, up till now, by alcohol, and 
incomparably more beneficent. 

Chapter 19 



This was a vitally energetic and creative year for Huxley. He re- 
married, moved to a new house, travelled and lectured; Heaven 
and Hell was published, Island begun. He experimented with psy- 
chedelics twice in 1956. The first occasion was with Gerald Heard 
and two medical investigators, during which he and Heard were 
administered a new tranquilizer called Frenquel to reverse the 
effects of a strong dose of mescalin. The resultant temporary 
bring-down Huxley likened to the Fall, and rushed off to re-read 
Paradise Lost. Later, he and Laura Archera Huxley participated 
in a low-dose LSD session to determine the power of hypnosis in 
psychedelic recall. 

Letters to Dr. Osmond written during this period discuss the 
framework of Island and a host of drugs: soma of the ancient 
Aryans, Psilosvbe mexicana mushroom eaters of Mexico, ayahuasca 
(yage) drinkers of South America. The picture of research with 
psychedelic synthetics in Los Angeles (then the center for such 
experimentation in the U.S.) is fairly bleak. His "lunatic-fringe 
mail" strengthens his belief that psychedelic research should be 
conducted "in the relative privacy of learned journals." The coin- 
ing of the term "psychedelic," and Huxley's choice, are discussed 
in a famous letter and another that has just come to light. In two 
eloquent letters written to women he expressed his deepest spiri- 
tual-philosophical speculations on the new drugs. Plans for a musi- 
cal comedy version of Brave New World stimulated a lyrical 
outburst preserved in one of the following letters. 

Letters ( ( loi 

TO DR. HOWARD FARING' [smith 736] 

y^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles ^6, Cal. 
20 January, 1956 
Dear Howard, 

I hope you had a pleasant and fruitful stay at Monterey and that you 
are now safely home again. Your visit here was a memorable event, 
and I am most grateful— and so, I know, is Gerald— for the experiences 
you made possible and for the opportunities of discussing and evalu- 
ating them. If and when I take my eastward trip, I look forward to 
repeating the experiment and renewing the discussions. 

Meanwhile I have been thinking over one of the subjects we raised 
in our conversation on Sunday morning— the use of hypnosis in con- 
junction with mescalin or LSD. It seems to me that hypnosis might 
prove very useful in three ways. First, to prepare the subject for the 
taking of the drug. Put him into a light trance and talk to him about 
what he is likely to experience— pointing out that there is nothing to 
be frightened of. What we ordinarily call "reality" is merely that 
slice of total fact which our biological equipment, our linguistic heri- 
tage (see Benjamin WHiorf ) and our social conventions of thought and 
feeling make it possible for us to apprehend. (The ideas contained in 
[}. J.] Von Uexkiill's classical book on Umweltlehre or "environmen- 
tology" are fundamental in this context. The paramecium, the sea 
urchin and the dog— each has its universe, and each of the universes 
is very diflFerent from the others. Man's biologically, socially and 
linguistically conditioned universe is much richer than that of the 
other animals; but it is still only a small slice of the melon. Mescalin 
and LSD permit us to cut another kind of slice— a slice which is not 
much good to us as creatures who have to survive and compete, but 
may be extremely helpful to us in so far as we are creatures capable 
and desirous of understanding. In simple terms, ideas of this kind 
could be conveyed to the subject under hypnosis, before the drug is 
taken. This should prevent him from going into a panic on account 
of the mere strangeness of the experience. 

In the second place, it would be interesting to see what could be 

^ Text from the hand-corrected carbon copy sent by Huxley to Osmond. Fabing 
is a Cincinnati physician who co-developed the tranquilizer Frenquel — see the 
following letter. 

102 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

done with hypnosis while the subject is under the drug's influence. 
To start with, is a mescalinized person hypnotizable? If so, can hyp- 
notic suggestions direct his new found visionary capacities into specific 
channels— e.g. into the realm of buried memories of childhood, or into 
specific areas of thought and imagery. Can we suggest, to him, for 
example, that he should see an episode from the Arabian Nights, or 
from the Gospel, or in the realm of archetypal symbols or mythology? 

Finally, it would be interesting to hypnotize the person after he came 
back from mescalin, trying to make him re-experience what he lived 
through under mescalin, but without the aid of the drug. This, it 
seems to me, should be started while the effects of the drug are wearing 
off. Try to prolong and re-enhance the experience by suggestion. At 
the same time give a posthypnotic suggestion to the effect that there 
will be no difficulty in recapturing the full experience at later dates. 
Repeat the experiment on the following days and see if hypnosis can 
establish not merely a memory of the mescalin experience, but a total 
recall or even a new experience of the same kind. If this seems to 
work, give post-hypnotic suggestions to the effect that the person will 
be able to enter the visionary state at will under auto-suggestion. 
This vivid recall and re-activation of visionary experience may turn 
out to be impossible. On the other hand it may not. But I am sure 
the experiment is worth trying— and trying on a number of subjects, 
since there is such an enormous difference in these matters between 
the capacities of one person and another. That some people enter 
the visionary world under hypnosis, I know experimentally. My wife, 
for example, would enter a world having the same sort of luminosity 
and significance as the mescalin world, where there were vast land- 
scapes, mostly of the desert, and a variety of personages. It would 
be interesting to discover whether, as the result of the door having 
once been opened by chemical means, persons ordinarily incapable of 
entering the "other world" spontaneously or through hypnosis would 
find it possible to dispense with the chemical key and reach the mescalin 
destination by purely psychological means (whatever that phrase may 

Please remember me to Dr. P. and to Bobby Brown, whom I think of 
with much affection. 

Aldous Huxley 

Letters ( ( 103 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 737] 

740 North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles 46, Col. 
21 January, 1956 
My Dear Humphry, 

Many thanks for your letter, I hope that the Saskatchewan winter is 
becoming shghtly less bleak. Certainly it seems to be a pretty bad 
winter everywhere— intense drought here, disastrous rains in the Pacific 
Northwest, appalling cold in the Mid West and the Eastern states, 
also in Europe. Perhaps our H-bomb fooleries have something to 
do with it— inopportune dust clouds triggering precipitation and cloud 
formation in unexpected ways. Most ignorant of what we are most 
assured (our glassy essence), like angry apes we play our fantastic 
tricks not only before high heaven, but in it. 

And talking of glassy essences, Gerald and I went through another 
mescalin experience last week. This time with Dr. Howard Fabing 
of Cincinnati— a very nice, open-minded and intelligent man— together 
with another M.D. and a young woman pharmacologist. Dr. Barbara 
Brown, mainly responsible for developing Frenquel. Fabing wanted 
to try the effect of Frenquel on us, so as to get our impressions 
of the cutting short of the mescalin experience by this new tranquillizer. 
He gave us 500 mgs of a particularly pure brand of mescalin, specially 
made up for him by a chemist at Antioch College. The effects were 
powerful. A good deal of vision with the eyes closed— though never 
consistent or long-drawn, just moving geometries modulating or on 
the verge of modulating into architectures. The time sense was altered 
most profoundly, and there was literally a long life time of experience 
of beauty, being and love. Fabing gave us a massive intravenous 
dose of Frenquel about two hours after the ingestion of the mescalin. 
The effects were noticeable within a quarter of an hour. It was a 
distressing experience, like that described by Emily Bronte. 

O dreadful is the check— intense the agony— 
When the ear begins to hear and the eye begins to see, 
(to see and hear in the manner of a separate, encapsulated ego) 

104 ) ) ^^^^ ^ I Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again, 
(to think discursively and biologically, utilitarianly) 

The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain. 

It was an experience of the Fall, made the more distressing by the 
fact that returning selfhood was accompanied by dizziness and general 
physical derangement akin to those experienced when one is drunk. 
(How curious, it suddenly occurs to me, that Milton's Adam and 
Eve should feel tight after eating the fruit! I must look up the passage 
in Paradise Lost.) This tipsy experience of the Fall lasted about 
forty-five minutes, then we both returned to the mescalin condition. 
Evidently intravenous Frenquel is rapidly excreted. Once it is safely 
out of the way, the mescalin re-emerges from its hiding place in the 
liver. Fabing is now convinced that, to be effective, the Frenquel 
should be given in small doses repeated at short intervals, not in a 
single large dose. Both Gerald and I continued to feel the effects 
until far into the night (we took the thing at three in the afternoon). 
At about six or six-thirty I got up and walked out onto the veranda 
outside the front door. On the wall of the house, between the windows 
of the large living room, are two charcoal outlines, still faintly visible, 
made by my brother-in-law, Joep Nicolas, four or five years ago, of 
Maria's and my profile— outlines traced round the shadows cast by 
the setting sun. I did not actually see these outfines, as there was very 
little light. But suddenly I thought of them and was overwhelmed by 
intense grief. I don't know how long the weeping lasted, but I must 
have discharged a great accumulation of unshed tears. It was something 
very painful but very necessary. 

I am enclosing the copy of a letter I am sending to Fabing on the 
subject of possible experiments with hypnosis, before, during and 
after the administration of mescalin. I hope he will try them— and I 
hope you will do so too; for there may be significant possibilities 
along this line. 

My love to Jane. 

Yours affectionately^ 

Letters ( ( 105 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 740] 

j^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles ^6, Cal. 
14 March, 1956 
My Dear Humphry, 

Thank you for your good and most interesting letter. I think you are 
right about the Indians.- Soma, in India, was taken only by the 
priests— and it was a dangerous drug, from which many people died. 
The votaries of Dionysus got drunk together— but alcohol is hardly 
an elixir, just booze. I dare say some of the tropical takers of mind- 
changing stuff may have hit upon the Indian device independently— but 
where can one find out? And anyhow they are too remote and too 
primitive to be of much significance to us. Gordon Wasson's mush- 
room eaters in southern Mexico evidently used an elixir in small groups, 
directed by a priest or priestess. His account ^ of his own experience 
with the mushrooms in such a group is very interesting. The symptoms 
seem to have been almost identical with those of peyote— including 
the vomiting. He was immensely impressed by the whole procedure 
—and when a partner in J. P. Morgan is impressed by this sort of 
thing, it must be pretty impressive! I hope you will find out more 
about your Native American Church in Saskatchewan. I have a 
standing invitation from some Indian peyotists in Ponca City, 
Oklahoma, to attend one of their meetings, but have been unable 
to accept so far owing to the tyranny of space and time. 

I have done three articles for the Sunday Times on "Brave New 
World Revisited"— one on the future from the demographer's point of 
view, one on the relevance of the BNW political set-up to the im- 
mediate future, and the third on soma (BNW variety), its relevance 
to the present mass consumption of "Happy Pills," (Miltown-Equanil) 
and its social, ethical and psychological significance. I hope to go 

2 Indians: Osmond had noted that the Native Church of North America (known 
to him as Red Pheasant, Sask.), had a remarkable and possibly unique religion 
inasmuch as its rites were perfonned as a small group activity, dispensing with a 
formal priesthood, using an elixir, and achieving an experience shared by the whole 
congregation. [Smith's note] See also: Osmond's introduction to Thomas Hennell's 
The Witnesses (1967), p. xlii. 

^Russia, Mushrooms and History (1957), although Huxley might be referring 
to Wasson's report in Life. 

io6 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

further into this problem when I embark on my projected phantasy 
about an imaginary society, whose purpose is to get its members to 
realize their highest potentiahties. I shall place the fable, not in the 
future, but on an island, hypothetical, in the Indian ocean, not far 
from the Andamans, and inhabited by people who are descended 
from Buddhist colonists from the mainland, and so know all about 
Tantra (which is more than I do— but one can do some learning 
and some pretending!). To build a bridge between them and us, I 
postulate an Englishman who made a fortune in the most cynical 
way in the later days of the East India Company, who came to 
explore the island and stayed because he saw, in a kind of psychological 
conversion, that its people knew most of the answers. He stays, 
organizes a kind of East- West school of wisdom and is on hand, as 
an old man, when another Englishman comes ashore. His history 
is that of a youth brought up in an Evangelical household, breaking 
down into madness as a consequence, going to an asylum (I have been 
reading Zilboorg and other books to get the full flavour of the horror 
of Early Victorian madhouses), gets cured owing to the arrival at 
the asylum of a reasonable and human superintendent, like Dr. Conolly, 
is sent on a voyage for his health and winds up on the island, where 
the older man takes him in hand, re-educates him to a sacramental 
view of sex and other natural functions, puts him through an initia- 
tion, with a local elixir playing an important part in the proceedings 
etc. etc. When he finally returns to England, he is a really sane and 
fully developed human being— so much so that he very soon finds 
himself confined, once again, to an asylum by his undeveloped and 
deranged relatives. Meanwhile of course, the island gets overrun by 
one of the colonial powers, and all its wisdom is systematically 
stamped out— as was the case, on a lower level of achievement, when 
Britain ruined the traditional social order in Burma— largely by in- 
troducing, with the best possible intentions, a coherent system of law 
in place of the logically indefensible, but psychologically successful, 
no-system of local arbitration by headmen-without-authority. This 
framework should permit a full exposition of what ought to be, what 
could be perhaps, and what has been and what actually is. . . . 

Yours affectionately, 

Letters ( ( 107 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 744] 

j^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles 46, Cal. 
30 March, ig^6 
Dear Humphry, 

Thank you for your letter, which I shall answer only briefly, since I 
look forward to talking to you at length in New York before very long. 
About a name for these drugs— what a problem! I have looked into 
Liddell and Scott and find that there is a verb phaneroein, "to make 
visible or manifest," and an adjective phaneros, meaning "manifest, 
open to sight, evident." The word is used in botany— phanerogam 
as opposed to cryptogam. Psychodetic ^ is something I don't quite 
get the hang of it. Is it an analogue of geodetic, geodesy? If so, it would 
mean mind-dividing, as geodesy means earth-dividing, from ge and 
daiein. Could you call these drugs psychophans? or phaneropsychic 
drugs? Or what about phanerothymes? Tliymos means soul, in its 
primary usage, and is the equivalent of Latin animus. The word 
is euphonious and easy to pronounce; besides it has relatives in the 
jargon of psychology— e.g. cyclothyme. On the whole I think this 
is better than psychophan or phaneropsychic. 

I expect to be flying east on the tenth, or eleventh, and will let you 
know before then where we shall be staying— possibly not in a hotel 
at all, but in a borrowed apartment. 


* Osmond had mentioned psychedelics, as a new name for mind-changing drugs 
to replace the term psychotomimetics. Huxley apparently misread the word as "psy- 
chodetics," hence his mystification. Osmond replied: 

"To fathom Hell or soar angelic, Just take a pinch of psychedelic 

Huxley still did not get the spelling, which he made psychodelic. [Smith's note]. 
Huxley invariably uses psychodelic for psychedelic, as he and others thought the 
latter term incorrect. Huxley's spelling has been retained, as this was undoubtedly 
his preference. However, it fails one criterion of Osmond, which is that the term 
be "uncontaminated by other associations." 

In a letter to Dr. A. Shulgin in 1969, Osmond provided a variant reading of the 
collaborative verse: 

"To make this mundane world sublime. 
Take half a gram of phanerothyme. 

To sink in Hell or soar angelic. 
You'll need a pinch of psychedelic. 
Phanerothyme — substantive. Phanerothymic — adjective. 
To make this trivial world sublime, 
Take a half a gramme of phanerothyme." 

io8 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 747] 

y^o North Kings Road, 
Los Angeles ^6, Cal. 
29 June, 1956 
Dear Humphry, 

We missed you very much at our little conference, and on your side I 
think, if you had been there, you would have been greatly stimulated 
and interested by Puharich's report on the effects of the cages and of 
the release into their atmosphere of positively or negatively charged 
ions. If his work is confirmed, there will be from now on a method 
by which (so far only in sensitives) psi faculties can be turned on to 
their most improbable maximum by the simple pressing of a switcli. 
Having established a standard electronic environment, Puharich is now 
going to try, systematically, the effect upon psi of various drugs, 
odours, sound stimuli and the like. It should be a most profitable 

Al [Hubbard] too was in great form. His methods of exposition 
are a bit muddled; but I suppose he and his group have by now a 
mass of written material on their cases— material which will show how 
the other line of experimentation works. For obviously one must 
proceed on both lines— the pure-scientific, analytical line of Puharich, 
trying out factor after factor in a standardized environment, and the 
line of the naturalist, psychologist and therapist, who uses the drug 
for healing and enlightening, and in the process, if he is a good 
observer and clear thinker, discovers new facts about the psycho- 
physical organism. 

Here, in Los Angeles, neither line of research is now being pursued. 
We have one or two doctors giving the stuff and compiling case 
histories of particular experiments, one or two working with neurotics 
or psychotics with the aid of the drug, and no analytical researchers. 
Moreover I hardly see the possibility of setting up such a group as 
Al now has in Vancouver— because we have no Al, nobody, that is 
to say, with the necessary business standing (the business man, by 
definition, can do nothing un-American), the necessary contacts 
with church and state, and the relationship with a sensitive area 
of science that permits him to command supplies of the drug. Again, 

Letters ( ( 109 

neither Gerald [Heard] nor I can claim to be a good experimental 
subject. For we don't have visions with the eyes closed, show no 
signs of psi and seem to be too much interested in the "obscure 
knowledge" of Suchness to want to be bothered with anything else. 
So it looks as though the scientific work and the therapeutic work 
will have to be carried on elsewhere. 

Now, as to times and seasons. When does it suit you to come to 
Vancouver during the month of August? I can conform my plans 
to yours. So please let me know which date suits you best, and I 
will aim for that. I don't exactly know what my role in this perform- 
ance will be— presumably the more or less intelligent questioner, 
asking the expert what it is all about. 


TO VICTORIA OCAMPO ' [smith 750] 

3276 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Cal. 
19 July, 1956 
Dear Victoria, 

. . . I am glad you liked my little book [Heaven and Hell]. How 
strange that we should all carry about with us this enormous universe 
of vision and that which lies beyond vision, and yet be mainly un- 
conscious of the fact! How can we learn to pass at will from one 
world of consciousness to the others? Mescalin and lysergic acid will 
open the door; but one doesn't like to depend exclusively on these 
chemicals, even though they seem to be more or less completely 
harmless. I have taken mescalin about six times now and have been 
taken beyond the realm of vision to the realm of what the mystics 
call "obscure knowledge"— insight into the nature of things accom- 
panied by the realization that, in spite of pain and tragedy, the 
universe is all right, in other words that God is Love. The words 
are embarrassingly silly and, on the level of average consciousness, 
untrue. But when we are on the higher level, they are seen to stand 
for the primordial Fact, of which the consciousness is now a part. 
The supreme art of life would be the art of passing at will from 

A long-time Argentinian friend, editor of the distinguished hterary review Sur. 

110 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

obscure knowledge to conceptualized, utilitarian knowledge, from the 
aesthetic to the mystical; and all the time to be able, in the words of 
the Zen master, to grasp the non-particular that exists in particulars, 
to be aware of the not-thought which lies in thought— the absolute in 
relationships, the infinite in finite things, the eternal in time. The 
problem is how to learn that supreme art of life? 

We have moved to a new house, high up in the hills and all is 
still confusion. Keep well, dear Victoria. 

Ever yours affectionately, 



3276 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Cal. 
22 July, 1956 
Dear Humphry, 

Our letters crossed, yours being delayed at this end by the fact that 
we were between t\\'0 houses, Iving in one and getting mail at the 
other. I wish that our leisures might have coincided. I have none at 
the moment, and along with no leisure a very bad feeling about TV, 
particularly in relation to this field. My lunatic-fringe mail is already 
much more copious than I like— I had a letter a few days ago 
from Mauritius, from a gentleman who went out there twenty years 
ago to achieve enlightenment and, according to himself, has now 
written the most extraordinary book in the world's history, and will 
I please write an introduction and secure him a fellowship at the 
Ford Foundation's Institute for Advanced Studies in the Social 
Sciences, or failing that a job on an American newspaper! And I 
say nothing of the gentleman in Chicago who has discovered the 
Absolute Truth and sends letters and telegrams about it to President 
Eisenhower and Bertrand Russell; nor the Mexican dermatologist 
who thinks that mescalin may be good for eczema, and will I tell 
him where he can procure the drug, nor the young man from York- 
shire who ate a peyote button supplied by a cactus-growing friend 
and for three days heard all music one tone higher than it should 
have been (quite an interesting phenomenon, incidentally, and one 
which might be worth testing with musical subjects. Laura thinks 
that it doesn't actually raise the pitch so far as she is concerned; 

Letters (( iii 

merely makes it sound like music played with more than ordinary 
verve and perfection and energy— something which tends to make 
one think that the piece is being played a little sharp). 

As you say in your letter, we still know very little about the psycho- 
delics, and, until we know a good deal more, I think the matter 
should be discussed, and the investigations described, in the relative 
privacy of learned journals, the decent obscurity of moderately high- 
brow books and articles. Whatever one says on the air is bound to 
be misunderstood; for people take from the heard or printed discourse 
that which they are predisposed to hear or read, not what is there. 
All that TV can do is to increase the number of misunderstanders 
by many thousandfold— and at the same time to increase the range 
of misunderstanding by providing no objective text to which the 
voluntarily ignorant can be made to refer. Littera scripta manet, 
volat irrevocabile verbum. 

In the intervals of writing articles for Esquire and making correc- 
tions in the play, I am doing a little work on my phantasy— writing 
the first chapters of the hero's childhood in an earliest Victorian setting, 
and ruminating the problems that will arise when he gets out to 
the hypothetical island in the Indian ocean, where his uncle has 
gone as surgeon to the local rajah (I shall make him emulate Dr. [James] 
Esdaile and cut off elephantiasis tumours in the mesmeric trance) 
and has taken to a kind of tantric philosophy and praxis, aimed 
at helping people to realize their potential capacities and at giving 
them a certain control of their destiny, primarily through control of 
the autonomic nervous system and the vegetative soul, plus access 
to the Atman-Brahman. I do hope I can bring this off with some 
measure of success. 
Give my love to Jane and the Hubbards. 

Ever yours affectionately, 


112 )) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 756] 

3276 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Col. 
23 September y 1956 
My Dear Humphry, 

Your good letter of two days ago heaped coals of fire on my head; for I 
have been gravely neglectful in the matter of writing. My brother has 
just left, after having been here, with his wife, for a fortnight; and 
doing things with him, along with a mass of work, kept me exceedingly 
busy, so that correspondence has banked up to alarming height and 
threatens to engulf me completely. 

While Julian was here we went to see, at UCLA, the rats and 
cats and monkeys with electrodes stuck into various areas of their 
brains. They press a little lever which gives them a short, mild electric 
shock— and the experience, in certain positions of the electrode, is 
evidently so ecstatically wonderful, that they will go on at the rate 
of eight thousand self-stimuli per hour until they collapse from exhaus- 
tion, lack of food and sleep. We are obviously getting very close to 
reproducing the Moslem paradise, where every orgasm lasts six 
hundred years. 

Our last experiment with LSD in conjunction with hypnosis— the 
idea being to hypnotize the participants and give them post-hypnotic 
suggestions to the effect that they would be able to reproduce the 
LSD experience at a given word of command— was not very successful, 
so far as the hjpnotic procedure was concerned. It may be that the 
suggestions, in order to be successful, have to be repeated on several 
occasions. Or it may be, of course, that the effects of the chemical 
are not reproducible by psychological means, at any rate in the 
majority of cases. What was interesting to me in the experiment was 
the fact that fifty gamma of LSD were sufficient to produce in me 
virtually the full effect of the standard dose, while with Laura twenty- 
five gamma proved to be very efficacious. It may be that preliminary 
hypnotism was a help in maximizing the effect of the chemical. 

I had an interesting communication a few days ago from a man 
who used to be a trader in the jungles of the upper Amazon, at the 
foot of the Andes, and is now teaching art in a California high 
school. He gave a full account of a drug which the Indians call 

Letters (( 113 

Ayahuasca,® derived from a mixture of local plants and effective only 
in large doses— you have to swallow a quart of an ill-tasting liquid. 
The result is something quite close to the peyote experience, with the 
visions taking predominantly vegetable, or vegetable-like forms, so 
that the natives use it in a kind of nature worship, combined with 
paranormal diagnosis and insight into curative simples. The man has 
asked for his paper to be returned; but I have asked him to send 
a copy to you, along with any botanical information he may have. 

It is good news that you may be coming to California later this 
autumn. Laura and I will be in New York from about October 16th 
to November 1st (with possible absences for two or three days). I 
have to give a talk at the banquet of the N.Y. Academy of Sciences, 
who are having a meeting about tranquilizers. I shall chat about 
the history of tension and the methods of release devised by different 
cultures in the past. Is there any chance that you may be in N.Y. 
at that time? 

The play situation is still in statu quo— de Liagre, the producer, 
waiting to hear from Deborah Kerr. [....] Meanwhile I have post- 
poned work on my phantasy to embark upon an adaptation for 
musical comedy of Brave New World. The first act is finished and 
seems to be very lively. After I have finished with my N.Y. Academy 
of Science thing, I will move on to the Savage Reservation. If all 
goes well and I can get somebody good to do the music— such as 
Leonard Bernstein— the results might be remarkable. 

Love to you both. 



[smith 757] 

^2j6 Deronda Drive, 

Los Angeles 28, Cal. 

30 September, 1956 

. . . Julian and Juliette were here for two weeks and we saw the scientific 

sights, here, at Caltech, at La Jolla and the San Diego Zoo. In the 

intervals I have been working on three projects— my usual article 

^ Bannisteriopsis caapi, also called yag^. 
^ Huxley's son and daughter-in-law. 

114 )) ^^^^ ^ I Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

for Esquire, my speech on the History of Tension for the N.Y. 
Academy of Sciences, and a musical comedy version of Brave New 
World— ioi everyone tells me that science fiction can never succeed 
on the stage as a straight play, but that it will be accepted when the 
medium ceases to be realistic and makes use of music and lyrics. I 
have finished the first act— completely re-writing the material produced 

by Mr. [ ], the original adapter and still half-owner of the rights. 

But better half a loaf than no bread, and I hope that, if the other 
acts work out as satisfactorily as the first, I may have something that 
will get put on. I am having to depart from the book, since the 
story must be put over in such an abbreviated form— sixty pages of 
script as opposed to the standard hundred and twenty for a straight 
play. But the streamlining will be a dramatic improvement. . . . 
. . . Here it is! 

Epsilons (singing) 

No more Mammy, no more Pappy: 

Ain't we lucky, ain't we happy? 

Everybody's oh so happy. 

Everybody's happy now! 

Sex galore, but no more marriages; 
No more pushing baby carriages; 
No one has to change a nappy— 
Ain't we lucky, ain't we happy: 
Everybody's happy now. 

Dope for tea and dope for dinner. 
Fun all night, and love and laughter; 
No remorse, no morning after. 
Where's the sin, and who's the sinner? 
Everybody's happy now. 

Girls pneumatic, girls exotic. 
Girls ecstatic, girls erotic- 
Hug me. Baby; make it snappy. 
Everybody's oh so happy, 
Everybody's happy now. 

Lots to eat and hours for drinking 
Soma cocktails— no more thinking. 


Everybody's happy now. 

Ever your affectionatey 

Letters (( 115 

TO MRS. ELLEN HUXLEY [smith 761 

3276 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Col. 
20 November, ig^6 
Dearest Ellen, 

Thank you for your fascinating account of the mescahn experience. 
Humphry was here and talked a httle about the event— but, I felt, 
with a certain reticence, as though something had happened, so far 
as he was concerned, which he didn't want to discuss too freely. 
Did you get what I have got so strongly on the recent occasions when 
I have taken the stuff— an overpowering sense of gratitude, a desire 
to give thanks to the Order of Things for the privilege of this 
particular experience, and also for the privilege— for that one feels 
it to be, in spite of everything— of living in a human body on this 
particular planet? And then there is the intense feeling of com- 
passion for those who, for whatever reason, make it impossible 
for themselves to get anywhere near the reality revealed by the drug— 
the reality which is always there for those who are in the right state 
of mind to perceive it. Compassion for the people who are too 
rigidly good or too rigidly intellectual, who live in the home-made 
world of their own ethical and social system, their own favourite 
notions of what's what; and compassion at the other end of the scale 
for those who blind themselves by excessive egotism, by alcohol and 
parties and TV. Some of the compassion and some of the gratitude 
remain, even after the experience is over. One can never be quite 
the same again. . . . 

Your affectionate, 

ii6 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

TO MRS. ELLEN HUXLEY [smith 763] 

^2^6 Deronda Drive, 
Hollywood 28, Cat. 
6 December, 1956 
Dearest Ellen, 

Thank you for your letter. Yes, how strange too is that sense of the 
unimportance of death, combined with the sense of the supreme 
importance of life. The only people who don't get anything from LSD 
or mescalin are psycho-analysts. There are 2 experimenters here who 
have given it to several Freudians. None of them got anything positive 
—except for one, who said that, when he went to the bathroom, he 
noticed that "his excreta smelled stronger and sweeter." Sig Freud's 
body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but his soul, or his anus, goes 
marching along. 

I am enclosing a cheque for you to get Xmas presents for all and 
sundry according to taste. It is much easier than sending parcels and, 
I hope, will work out more to everyone's satisfaction. 
Much love to you all. 

Your affectionate, 

Chapter 20 


The History of Tension 


The following address was delivered at a conference at which the 
majority of papers read pertained to the new tranquilizing agent 
meprobamate [Miltown]. It was another occasion when Huxley's 
was the lone voice from the world of letters at a gathering of 
physicians and scientists. His monograph "is concerned with the 
use of certain chemical compounds that produce certain changes 
of consciousness and so permit a measure of self-transcendence 
and a temporary relief of tension!' No less than seven radio and 
television appearances were lined up for him when he arrived in 
New York for the conference. 

The Title Of this paper is somewhat misleading for, strictly speaking, 
the history of tension does not exist. Tension is a form of disease; and 
diseases, as such, are beyond the scope of history. There is no such 
thing, for example, as a medieval stomach-ache, no such thing as a 
specifically neolithic focal infection, a characteristically Victorian 
neuraglia, or a New Deal epilepsy. So far as the patient is concerned, 
the symptoms of his illness are a completely personal experience, an 
experience to which the public life of nations, the events recorded in 
the headlines or discussed in scientific journals and literary reviews are 
totally irrelevant. Politics, culture, the march of civilization, all the 
marvels of nature, all the triumphs of art and science and technology— 
these things exist for the healthy, not for the sick. The sick are aware 
only of their private pains and miseries, only of what goes on within 
the four walls of the sickroom. For them the infinite universe has con- 
tracted almost to a point; nothing remains of it but their own suffering 
bodies, their own numbed or tormented minds. Disease as an actual 
experience is more or less completely independent of time and place. 

ii8 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

Consequently there cannot be a history of disease as experience; there 
can only be a history of medicine— that is to say, a history of theories 
about the nature of diseases and of the recipes employed at different 
times for their treatment, together with a history of the ways in which 
organized societies have reacted to the problems of disease within the 

While tension, as a psychosomatic illness, has no history, at least 
some of the causes of tension lie within the public domain and can be 
made the subject of historical study. The same is true of the procedures 
sanctioned by various societies for the prevention and relief of tension. 
The subject is enormous; my time is short and my ignorance encyclo- 
pedic. I shall therefore make no attempt to discuss all the historical 
factors associated with tension, but shall confine myself to those that 
are most manageable and, at the same time, most relevant to the prob- 
lems confronting us today. 

Let me start with what I shall not talk about. I shall not talk, ex- 
cept perhaps incidentally, about the historical causes of tension. This 
would entail a discussion of two vast and complex themes— the trans- 
formation of culture patterns and the relations subsisting between a 
given culture and the individuals brought up within it. 

At the risk of indulging in those Original Sins of the intellect, over- 
simplification and overabstraction, let me sum up this entire matter 
in one large, comprehensive generalization. Tension, I should say, 
arises in persons who, because of some congenital or acquired weakness, 
are unable to cope with certain distressing situations. These distressing 
situations are produced by conflict— conflict between the fundamental 
drives to self-aflBrmation and sex on the one hand, and the equally 
fundamental drive to gregariousness on the other. The drive to gregari- 
ousness is canalized by society, sanctioned by tradition, and rational- 
ized in terms of religion and philosophy; hence the intrusion of historical 
factors into a situation that, on the animal level, would be exclusively 
biological. The disease of tension seems to have arisen under all cul- 
tural conditions— in shame cultures as in guilt cultures, in primitive 
cultures no less than in highly developed cultures— and fundamentally 
similar devices for the relief of tension have been developed in all 
the societies of which we have any knowledge. It is with these devices 
for the relief of tension that I shall be concerned in this paper. 

Like all other diseases, tension tends to narrow the patient's aware- 
ness until, in extreme cases, he is conscious of nothing but himself. 
Grave illnesses profoundly change the personality of their victims. To 
this changed personality the narro\\'ing of awareness induced by the 
illness soon comes to seem almost normal and is taken for granted. 
Tension is not a severe illness, and those who suffer from tension are 

History of Tension (( 119 

well enough to feel and suffer from the cramping self-centeredness 
imposed upon them by their psychosomatic disorder. They are like 
those lost souls whose punishment is, in the words of the great Catholic 
poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, "to be their sweating selves, but worse." 
The victim of tension knows and is acutely distressed by his sense of 
being his sweating self, but worse. And here we may remark that even 
healthy people are often distressed by the realization that they are con- 
demned to be the separated, insulated individuals they so irretrievably 
are. Neurotics hate being their sweating selves, but worse. Normal people 
hate being their sweating selves, period. One of the most disagreeable 
symptoms of tension is simply the normal distress at being an island 
universe raised, so to speak, to a higher power. Man is a self-adoring 
egotist, but an egotist who often feels an intense distaste for the object 
of his idolatrous worship. Correlated with this distaste for the beloved 
self, there exists in all human beings an urge to self-transcendence, a 
wish to escape from the prison of personality, a longing to become 
something other and greater than the all-too-familiar Me, a susceptibil- 
ity to nostalgia for a world superior to, or at least different from, the 
boring or painful universe of everyday reality. The religious man has 
attributed this universal urge to self-transcendence to an innate and 
deep-seated yearning for the divine. The biologist sees the matter some- 
what differently, and he attributes man's desire for self-transcendence 
to the workings of his innate gregariousness. Tlie individual longs to 
be merged with the herd, but he is too self-centered to be able to do so 
completely and too self-conscious to be able to sustain the attempt for 
long. He is therefore condemned to live in a state of chronic dissatis- 
faction, constantly pining for something that, in the very nature of 
things, he can never have. 

These two explanations are not mutually exclusive, and I should be 
inclined to think that both are partially correct. Be that as it may, the 
facts for which they profess to account are genuine facts. There is an 
urge to self-transcendence and, with it, a profound distaste for the 
insulated ego, a distaste which, in the victims of tension, becomes acute 
and agonizing. In every human culture certain procedures for achieving 
temporary self-transcendence, and thereby relieving tension, have been 
developed and systematically employed. These procedures may be classi- 
fied under a few comprehensive headings. There are chemical methods, 
the musical and gymnastic methods, the methods that depend on the 
subjection of insulated individuals to the influence of crowds, the 
various religious methods and, finally the methods whose purpose is 
mystical self-transcendence— the various yogas and spiritual exercises 
of Oriental and Western traditions. Hours would be needed to do 
justice to all these stratagems, and I must limit myself to a discussion 

120 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

of only two of them, the most popular and the most difficult to con- 
trol, namely, the chemical method and what may be called the crowd 

This monograph is concerned with the use of certain chemical 
compounds that produce certain changes of consciousness and so per- 
mit a measure of self-transcendence and a temporary relief of tension. 
These tranquilizing drugs are merely the latest additions to a long list 
of chemicals that have been used from time immemorial for changing 
the quality of consciousness, thus making possible some degree of self- 
transcendence and a temporary release from tension. Let us always 
remember that, while modern pharmacology has given us a host of 
new synthetics, it has made no basic discoveries in the field of the 
natural drugs; it has merely improved the methods of extraction, puri- 
fication, and combination. All the naturally occurring sedatives, narcot- 
ics, euphorics, hallucinogens, and excitants were discovered thousands 
of years ago, before the dawn of civilization. This surely is one of the 
strangest facts in that long catalogue of improbabilities known as human 
history. It is evident that primitive man experimented with every root, 
twig, leaf, and flower, every seed, nut, berry and fungus in his environ- 
ment. Pharmacology is older than agriculture. There is good reason 
to believe that even in paleolithic times, while he was still a hunter and 
a food-gatherer, man killed his animal and human enemies with 
poisoned arrows. By the late Stone Age he was systematically poisoning 
himself. The presence of poppy heads in the kitchen middens of the 
Swiss Lake Dwellers shows how early in his history man discovered 
the techniques of self-transcendence through drugs. There were dope 
addicts long before there were farmers. 

Here let me mention a fact of some importance. To relieve tension, 
a chemical compound need not have the characteristics of a tranquil- 
izer. Alcohol, for example, is far from tranquilizing, at least in the 
middle stages of intoxication, and it has been relieving tension ever 
since Noah made his epoch-making discovery. Self-transcendence can 
be achieved by an excitant as well as by a narcotic or a hallucinogen. 
Tension is relieved not only by such contemplative drugs as opium, 
peyote, kava, and ayahuasca, but also by active, extraverted intoxicants 
such as wine, hashish, and the soma of ancient India. Physiologically 
and socially, some drugs are much less harmful than others, and are 
therefore to be preferred, although such merely utilitarian considera- 
tions have never carried much weight with the drug taker. For him 
anything that produces a measure of self-transcendence and release 
seems good. So long as it works here and now, who cares what may 
happen later on? 

In his Varieties of Religious Experience William James says: "The 

History of Tension (( 121 

sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to 
stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to 
earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety 
diminishes, discriminates and says no; drunkenness expands, unites 
and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man. 
It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant 
core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. Not through mere 
perversity do men run after it. To the poor and the unlettered it stands 
in the place of symphony concerts and of literature. It is part of the 
deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something 
that we immediately recognize as excellent should be vouchsafed to so 
many of us only in the fleeting earlier stages of what in its totality is 
so degrading a poison. The drunken consciousness is one bit of the 
mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place 
in our opinion of that larger whole." 

Elsewhere in the Varieties James cites the dictum of one of his 
medical friends: "Tliere is no cure for dipsomania except religio- 
mania." In their somewhat too epigrammatic way, these words express 
a truth that the collective experience of Alcoholics Anonymous has 
amply confirmed. Mystical experience stands to drunkenness in the 
relation of whole to part, of health to sickness. For the alcoholic as 
for the mystic there is an opening of doors, a bypassing of what I have 
called the cerebral reducing valve, the normal brain function that 
limits our mental processes to an awareness, most of the time, of what 
is biologically useful. For both there is a glimpse of something tran- 
scendent to the world of everyday experience— that narrow, utilitarian 
world that our self-centered consciousness selects from out of the 
infinite wealth of cosmic potentialities. What the drunkard sees in the 
earlier phases of intoxication is immediately recognized as excellent. 
What is not excellent is the particular method employed for achieving 
this transcendental experience. 

Alcohol is one of the oldest and certainly the most widely used of 
all consciousness-changing drugs. Unfortunately it is a rather ineffic- 
ient and, at the same time, a rather dangerous drug. There are other 
and better ways than getting drunk for achieving the same intrinsically 
excellent results. Some of these ways are chemical, others are psycho- 
logical. Others involve fasting, voluntary insomnia, and various forms 
of self-torture. All these procedures modify the normal body chemistry 
and so facilitate the bypassing of the cerebral reducing valve and the 
achievement of a temporary escape from the prison of insulated self- 
hood. Some day, when psychology becomes a genuine science, all these 
traditional methods for producing self-transcendence will be systemati- 
cally examined, and their respective merits and defects will be accu- 

122 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

lately assessed. For the present we must be content with such 
fragmentary knowledge as is now available. 

William James's characterization of alcohol as an exciter of the 
mystical faculties is strikingly confirmed by what the mystics themselves 
have said of their ecstatic experiences. In the mystical literature of 
Islam, metaphors derived from wine and winebibbing are constantly 
employed. Precisely similar metaphors are to be found in the writings 
of some of the greatest Christian saints. Tlius St. John of the Cross 
calls his soul la interior bodega di mi Amddo— the inward wine cellar 
of my Beloved. And St. Teresa of Avila tells us that she "regards the 
center of our soul as a cellar, into which God admits us when and 
as it pleases Him, so as to intoxicate us with the delicious wine of 
His grace." 

The experience of self-transcendence and the release of tension 
produced by alcohol and the other consciousness-changing chemicals 
is so wonderful, so blessed and blissful, that men have found it quite 
natural to identify these drugs to which they owe their momentary 
happiness with one or other of their gods. "Religion," said Karl 
Marx, "is the opium of the people." It would be at least as true to 
say that opium is the religion of the people. A few mystics have 
compared the state of ecstasy to drunkenness; but innumerable drinkers, 
smokers, chewers, and snuff-takers have achieved a form of ecstatic 
release through the use of drugs. The supernatural qualities of this 
mental state are projected outward upon the drugs that produced it. 
Thus, in Greece wine was not merely sacred to Dionysus; wine was 
Dionysus. Bacchus was called Theoinos— Godwine— a single word 
equating alcohol with deity, the experience of drunkenness with the 
holy spirit. "Bom a god," said Euripides, "Bacchus is poured out in 
libations to the gods, and through him men receive good." That good, 
according to the Greeks, was of many kinds— physical health, mental 
illumination, the gift of prophesying, the ecstatic sense of being one 
with divine truth. Similarly, in ancient India, the juice of the soma 
plant (whatever that plant may have been) was not merely sacred to 
Indra, the hero-god of battles; it was Indra. And at the same time it 
was Indra's alter ego, a god in its own right. Many similar examples 
of this identification of a consciousness-changing drug with some god 
of the local pantheon could be cited. In Siberia and Central America 
various species of hallucinogenic mushrooms are regarded as gods. 
The Indians of the southwestern United States identified the peyote 
cactus with native deities and, in recent years, with the Holy Ghost 
of Christian theology. In classical times the northern barbarians who 
drank malt liquor worshiped their beer under the name of Sabazius. 
Beer was also a god for the Celtic peoples, as mead seemed divine to 

History of Tension ( ( 125 

the Scandinavians and the Teutons. In Anglo-Saxon, the idea of 
catastrophe, of panic, of the ultimate in horror and disaster is conveyed 
by a word whose literal meaning is "the deprivation of mead." Almost 
everywhere the consumption of consciousness-changing drugs has been 
associated, at one time or another, with religious ritual. Drinking, 
chewing, inhaling, and snuff-taking have been regarded as sacramental 
acts, sanctioned by tradition and rationalized in terms of the prevailing 
theology. In the Moslem world alcohol was forbidden, but the urge 
to self-transcendence could not be suppressed, and there were and 
still are places within the Moslem world where the consumption 
of Cannabis indica is not only sanctioned by society, but has even been 
turned into a kind of religious rite. Certain Mohammedan authors have 
seen in hashish the equivalent of the sacramental bread and wine 
of the Christians. Among the Jews many efforts were made to give 
a religious sanction to winebibbing. Jeremiah refers to the "cup of 
consolation," which was administered to the bereaved. Amos speaks 
of men who drink wine in the house of their God. Micah has some 
harsh words for those who, in his day, used to prophesy under the in- 
fluence of alcohol. Isaiah denounces the priests and prophets who have 
"erred through strong drink." They have erred, he says, "in vision." 
Traditionally, Dionysus was the god of prophecy and inspiration; but 
alas, the revelations of alcohol are not altogether reliable. 

From self-transcendenCv^ by chemical means we now pass to self- 
transcendence by social means. The individual makes direct contact 
with society in two ways— as a member of some familial, professional, 
or religious group, or as a member of a crowd. A group is purposive 
and structured; a crowd is chaotic, serves no particular purpose, and is 
capable of anything except intelligent action. Using an analogy that 
is not too misleading, we can say that the first is an organ of the 
body politic, the second is a kind of tumor, generally benign, but 
sometimes horribly malignant. Tlie greater part of most people's lives 
is passed in groups. Participation in crowd activities is a relatively 
rare event. This is fortunate, for individuals in a crowd are different 
from, and in every respect worse than, individuals in isolation or 
within purposive and organized groups. A man in a crowd loses his 
personal identity, and that, of course, is why he likes to be in a crowd. 
Personal identity is what he longs to transcend, what he desires to 
escape. Unfortunately, the members of a crowd lose more than their 
personal identity; they also lose their powers of reasoning and their 
capacity for moral choice. Their suggestibility is increased to the point 
where they cease to have any judgment or will of their own. They 
become very excitable, lose all sense of individual or collective 
responsibility, are subject to sudden and violent accesses of rage. 

124 ) ) ^^^^ ^ / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

enthusiasm, and panic, and become capable of performing the most 
monstrous, the most completely senseless acts of violence— usually 
against others, but sometimes against themselves. In a word, a man 
in a crowd behaves as though he had swallowed a large dose of some 
powerful intoxicant. He is a victim of what may be called herd 
poisoning. Like alcohol, herd poison is an active, extraverted drug. 
It changes the quality of individual consciousness in the direction of 
frenzy, and makes possible a high degree of downward self-transcen- 
dence. The crowd-intoxicated individual escapes from insulated self- 
hood into a kind of subhuman mindlessness. 

From the beginning men have done their work and gone through 
the serious business of living in purposeful groups. Crowds have provided 
them with their psychological vacations. Nourishment drawn from the 
group has been their staple food; herd poison has been their delicious 
dope. Religion has everywhere sanctioned and rationalized intoxication 
by herd poison, just as it has sanctioned and rationalized the use of 
consciousness-changing chemicals. Alfred North ^Vhitehead's statement 
that "religion is what the individual does with his solitariness" is 
true only if we choose to define religion as something that, as a matter 
of historical fact, it has never been, except for a small minority. And 
the same would be true of a definition of religion in terms of what 
the individual does with his experience of being in a small, dedicated 
group such as the Quaker Meeting or the "two or three gathered 
together in my name," of whom Christ spoke in the gospel. The 
spirituality of small groups is a very high form of religion, but it is 
not the only or the commonest form— it is merely the best. Significantly 
enough, Christ promised to be in the midst of a group of two or three. 
He never promised to be present in a crowd. \Vhere two or three 
thousand, or two or three tens of thousands are gathered together, the 
indwelling presence is generally of a very different and un-Christlike 
kind. Yet such crovv'd activities as the mass revival meeting and the 
pilgrimage are sanctioned and even actively encouraged by religious 
leaders today just as they were in the pagan past. The reason is 
simple. Most people find it easier to achieve self-transcendence and 
relief from tension in a crowd than in a small group or when they 
are by themselves. These herd poisonings in the name of religion are 
not particularly beneficial; they merely provide brief holidays from 
insulated self-consciousness. 

The history of man's efforts to find self-transcendence in crowds is 
long and, for all its strangeness, its weird aberrations, profoundly 
monotonous. From the potlatch and the corroboree to the latest out- 
burst of "rock 'n roll," the manifestations of herd poisoning exhibit 
the same subhuman characteristics. At their best, such performances 

History of Tension ( ( 125 

are merely grotesque in their subhumanity; at their worst, they are 
both grotesque and horrible. One thinks, for example, of the festivals 
of the Syrian goddess, in the course of which, under the maddening 
influence of herd poison and priestly suggestion, men castrated them- 
selves and women lacerated their breasts. One thinks of Greek 
maenadism, with its savage dismemberment of living victims. One 
thinks of the Roman saturnalia. One thinks of all the outbursts of 
crowd intoxication during the Middle Ages— the children's crusades, 
the periodical orgies of collective flagellation, and those strange dancing 
manias in which self-transcendence through herd poisoning was 
combined with self-transcendence by gymnastic means and self- 
transcendence through repetitive music. One thinks of the wild religious 
revivals, the frantic stampedes of those who believed that the end of 
the world was at hand, the frenzies of iconoclasm in the name of God, 
of senseless destruction for righteousness' sake. These are bad enough, 
but there is something much worse— the crowd intoxication that is 
exploited by the ambitious rabble-rouser for his own political or 
religious ends. 

In the spring of 1954, while I was staying at Ismailia on the Suez 
Canal, I was taken by my hosts to the local movie theater. The film, 
which was drawing record crowds, was fulius Caesar played in English, 
but with Arabic subtitles. The spectators sat in spellbound attention, 
their eyes riveted on the screen. Why on earth, I kept wondering, 
should twentieth-century Arabs be so passionately interested in a 
sixteenth-century Englishman's account of events that had taken 
place at Rome in the first century B.C.? And suddenly it was obvious. 
Caesar, Brutus, Antony, all those upper-class politicians fighting for 
power and, in the process, cynically flattering and exploiting a pro- 
letarian mob they despised but could not do without, were thoroughly 
familiar and contemporary figures to the Egyptian audience. What had 
happened in Rome just before and after Caesar's murder was very 
like what had been happening only a few weeks before in Cairo when 
Naguib fell, rose again, in triumph, and was once more brought low 
by a rival who knew how to play on the passions of the crowd, how 
to make use of its drunken enthusiasm and drunken violence for 
his own purposes. Looking at Shakespeare's play, the moviegoers of 
Ismailia found themselves looking at an uncensored report on the latest 
coup (Tetat. 

Of course, the greatest virtuoso in the art of exploiting the symptoms 
of herd poisoning was Adolf Hitler. The Nazis did their work with 
scientific thoroughness. All the resources of modern technology were 
mobilized in order to reduce the greatest possible number of people 
to the lowest possible state of downward self-transcendence. Phono- 

126 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

graphs repeated slogans. Loudspeakers poured forth the brassy and 
strongly accented music, the repetition of which drives people out of 
their minds. Concealed sound machines produced subsonic vibrations 
at the critical, soul-stirring rate of fourteen cycles per second. Modern 
methods of transportation were used to assemble thousands of the 
faithful under the floodlights in enormous stadiums, and the voice 
of the arch-hypnotist was broadcast by radio to millions more. 

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive." So wrote Wordsworth 
of his experience of herd poisoning in the first, joyful months of the 
French Revolution. In our own time, millions of men and women, 
millions of enthusiastic boys and girls have had a similar experience. 
For the herd-poisoned members of the mobs that are used for the 
making of revolutions and the buttressing of dictatorial power, the 
dawn even of Nazism, even of Communism, seems blissful. Un- 
fortunately, dawns are succeeded by laborious and often unpleasant 
days and evenings. In those later hours of revolutionary history, bliss 
is apt to be conspicuous by its absence. At the moment of sunrise, 
however, nobody ever thinks of what is likely to happen in the 
afternoon. Like alcoholics or morphine addicts, the victims of herd 
poison are interested only in releasing self-transcendence here and now. 
"After me the deluge," is their motto. And sure enough, the deluge 
punctually arrives. 

From the history of tension let us turn, in conclusion, to the present 
and the future. It is clear, I think, that the problem of tension will 
be completely solved only when we have a perfect society— that is to 
say, never. Meanwhile, it always remains possible to find partial 
solutions and temporary palliatives. Let us consider a few practical 
steps that it would be fairly easy to take. 

First of all we might incorporate into our present profoundly 
unsatisfactory and disappointing system of education a few simple 
courses in the art of controlling the autonomic nervous system and 
the subconcious mind. As things now stand, we teach children the 
principles of good health, good morals, and good thinking, but we 
do not teach them how to act upon these principles. We urge them 
to make good resolutions, but we do nothing whatever to help them 
carry these resolutions into practice. A main source of tension is the 
consciousness of miserably failing to do what we know we ought to do. 
If every child were given some training in what Hornell Hart has 
called autoconditioning, we should do more for general decency and 
good feeling than all the sermons ever preached. 

The next step to be taken is prophylactic in character. Human 
beings pine for self-transcendence, and getting drunk on herd poison 
is one of the most effective methods of taking a holiday from insulated 

History of Tension ( ( 127 

selfhood and the burdens of responsibihty. So long as they indulge in 
crowd-intoxication at football games and carnivals, at revival meetings 
and the rallies of democratically organized political parties, no harm 
is done. We must never forget, however, that the spellbinders, the 
rabble-rousers, the potential Hitlers are always with us. We must never 
forget that it is very easy for such men to turn an innocent orgy into 
an instrument of destruction, into a savage, mindless force directed 
toward the overthrow of liberty. To prevent them from exploiting 
crowd intoxication for their own sinister purposes we must be perpetually 
on our guard. Whether a world inhabited by potential Hitlers on the 
one hand and potential herd-poison addicts on the other can ever 
be made completely safe for rationality and decency seems doubtful, 
but at least we can try to make it a little safer than it is at present. 
For example, we can give our children lessons in the elements of 
general semantics. We can tell them about the frightful dangers of 
intellectual sin. We can make their flesh creep by reciting to them 
the disastrous consequences to societies and to individuals of the rabble- 
rouser's oversimplification, overgeneralization, and overabstraction. 
We can remind them to live in present time and to think concretely 
and realistically, in terms of observable fact. We can unveil the 
absurd and discreditable secrets of propaganda and illustrate our 
lectures with examples drawn from the history of politics, religion, 
and the advertising industry. Would such a training be effective? 
Perhaps— or perhaps not. Herd poison is a very powerful intoxicant. 
Once they get into a crowd, even upright and sensible men are apt 
to lose their reason and accept all the suggestions, however nonsensical 
or however immoral, that may be given them. All we can hope to 
accomplish is to make it more difficult for the rabble-rouser to do 
his nefarious work. 

The third step we must take will, in fact, be taken whether we 
like it or not. Once the seeds of a science have been planted they 
tend to sprout and develop autonomously according to the law of their 
own being, not according to the laws of our being. Pharmacology 
has now entered upon a period of rapid growth, and it seems quite 
certain that in the next few years scores of new methods for changing 
the quality of consciousness will be discovered. So far as the individual 
human being is concerned, these discoveries will be more important, 
more genuinely revolutionary, than the recent discoveries in the field 
of nuclear physics and their application to peacetime uses. If it does 
not destroy us, nuclear energy will merely give us more of what we 
have already— cheap power, with its corollar\' of more gadgets, larger 
irrigation projects, and more efficient transportation. It will give us 
these things at a very high price- an increase in the amount of 

128 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

noxious radiation, with its corollaries of harmful mutations and a 
permanent fouling of man's genetic pool. But the pharmacologists will 
give us something that most human beings have never had before. 
If we want joy, peace, and loving kindness, they will give us loving 
kindness, peace, and joy. If we want beauty, they will transfigure 
the outside world for us and open the door to visions of unimaginable 
richness and significance. If our desire is for life everlasting, they will 
give us the next best thing— aeons of blissful experience miraculously 
telescoped into a single hour. They will bestow these gifts without 
exacting the terrible price that, in the past, men had to pay for 
resorting too frequently to such consciousness-changing drugs as heroin 
or cocaine, or even that good old stand-by alcohol. Already we have 
at our disposal hallucinogens and tranquilizers whose physiological 
price is amazingly low, and there seems to be every reason to believe 
that the consciousness-changers and tension-relievers of the future will 
do their work even more efficiently and at even lower cost to the 
individual. Human beings will be able to achieve effortlessly what in 
the past could be only achieved with difficulty, by means of self- 
control and spiritual exercises. Will this be a good thing for individuals 
and for societies? Or will it be a bad thing? These are questions 
to which I do not know the answers. Nor, may I add, does anyone 
else. The outlines of these answers may begin to appear a generation 
from now. Meanwhile, all that one can predict with any degree 
of certainty is that it will be necessary to reconsider and re-evaluate 
many of our traditional notions about ethics and religion, and many 
of our current views about the nature of the mind, in the context 
of the pharmacological revolution. It will be extremely disturbing; 
but it will also be enormous fun. 

Chapter 21 



Huxley divided this year between his Los Angeles home and a 
New York City hotel where he worked on the script for the stage 
version of The Genius and the Goddess, and the musical comedy 
version of Brave New World. By the end of the year he had 
commenced writing Brave Nev^ World Revisited (a full-length 
book not to he confused with the Esquire article). He took no 
psychedelic substances in i()$j, but did take large doses of niacin- 
amide under the supervision of Dr. Hoffer in an attempt to reduce 
the cholesterol level of his blood and thus effect the diminishing 
of his right eye cataract. Huxley's letters this year continued to 
evidence his concern with the transcendent nature of visionary 
experiences produced by psychoactive substances, including light 
doses of ether and laughing gas, and the value of mescalin in 
hypnosis and ESP research, based upon preliminary investigation. 


^2j6 Deronda Drive 

Los Angeles 28, Col. 

20 May, 1957 

... It Seems Evident that anaesthetics, like mescalin and LSD, 
"open a door," which gives access to areas of the mind, of which 
ordinarily we have no, or very little, or only occasional cognizance. 

^ Not in G. Smith. Published in P. B. Smith, Chemical Glimpses of Reality 
(Springfield: Charles Thomas, 1972), pp. 86-87. 

130 )) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

In this area of the mind we may find visionary experience, sometimes 
terrible, but more often (if we are physically and psychologically 
healthy) beautiful and illuminating. We may also find what the 
mystics call "obscure knowledge" about the nature of the universe 
—a "sense of something far more deeply interfused" (in Wordsworth's 
phrase), a sense that All is present in every particular, the Absolute 
in every relative. And associated with this obscure knowledge may come 
a new mode of apprehension, in which the ordinary subject-object 
relationship is somehow transcended, and there is an awareness of 
self and the outer world as being one. Often, too, there is an actual 
experience of truths (they are known to be truths), which, when 
presented in conceptual terms to the mind in its normal state, seem 
incomprehensible and absurd. Such propositions as "God is love" 
are realized with the totality of one's being, and their truth seems 
self-evident in spite of pain and death. With this goes an intense 
gratitude for the privilege of existence in this universe. (Blake said 
that "gratitude is heaven itself"— a phrase I was unable to understand 
before taking LSD, but which now seems luminously comprehensible.) 
Different drugs give access to different areas of this Other World 
of the mind— or at least make it easier to go to one area rather 
than another. It is surprising, however, to see how closely the ex- 
periences induced by very different chemicals correspond with one 
another. Mescalin is unlike LSD, and both are unlike the active 
substance in the mushrooms described by Gordon Wasson. But the 
experiences induced are very similar. And, in their turn, these drug 
induced experiences are very similar to the experiences which come 
to certain people spontaneously and which others have induced by 
"spiritual exercises" and such psycho-ph}sical methods for changing 
body chemistry as fasting, prolonged insomnia, violent mortification 
of the flesh. Nor should we forget the effects of "limited environment." 
What men like Hebb and Lilly are doing in the laboratory was done 
by the Christian hermits in the Thebaid and elsewhere, and by Hindu 
and Tibetan hermits in the remote fastnesses of the Himalayas. My 
own belief is that these experiences really tell us something about 
the nature of the universe, that they are valuable in themselves and, 
above all, valuable when incorporated into our \\orld-picture and acted 
upon [in] normal life. The effect of the mistical experience upon normal 
life has everywhere been regarded as the test of the experience's validity. 

Letters (( 131 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 774] 

^2y6 Derondd Drive 
Los Angeles 28, Cal. 
1 June, 1957 
Dear Humphry, 

. . . Meanwhile what do you say to Eileen's plan (about which she said 
she was writing to you) for a quiet series of experiments in Mrs. Bolton's 
house in Florida next winter? It sounds to me very good, and if you 
could get away for at least some of the duration of the experiments, 
it should be possible to achieve something significant. Using the same 
subjects in a regular series of tests should make possible a really 
systematic exploration of their other world. It will also be possible 
to see what can be done by combining hypnosis with LSD or mescalin. 
Dr. L. J. West, of the Medical School of the University of Oklahoma, 
was here a few weeks ago— an extremely able young man, I think. 
His findings are that mescalinized subjects are almost unhypnotizable. 
I suggested to him that he should hypnotize his people before they 
took LSD and should give them post-hypnotic suggestions aimed at 
orientating the drug-induced experience in some desired direction, 
and also at the very desirable goal of enabling subjects to recapture 
the LSD experience by purely psychological means, after their return 
to normal consciousness, and whenever they so desired. The fact that 
this kind of experience occurs in some persons spontaneously indicates 
that chemicals are not indispensable, and it may be that the unconscious 
can be persuaded, by means of post-hypnotic suggestions, repeated if 
necessary again and again, to open the door without the aid of 
chemical keys. Such a set-up as Eileen envisages would be ideal for 
this kind of experiment. It would be a great thing if you could get 
down to Florida to supervise at least the initial phases of the work. 
I had a letter a few days since from another doctor in Oklahoma, 
Dr. Philip Smith, who has been experimenting with anaesthetics such 
as ether, laughing gas, etc.— testing the psychological effects of light 
doses. He has evidently had good results himself and he wrote to 
me asking if I knew any literary references to the matter. I know very 
few, and he said there were remarkably few in the medical literature. 
It is evident from the little there is that here is vet another key 
to the door into the other world. 

132 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

While I was in New York, I lunched with Wasson at his Temple 
of Mammon. [....] he has put an immense amount of work into 
his subject, and the material brought together in his vast tomes is 
very curious and suggestive. However, he does, as you say, like to 
think that his mushrooms are somehow unique and infinitely superior 
to everything else. I tried to disabuse him. But he likes to feel that 
he has got hold of the One and Only psychodelic— accept no substitutes, 
none genuine unless sold with the signature of the inventor. 

I also saw dear old Suzuki in New York. What a really wonderful 
old man! Have you read his most recent book on Mysticism, Christian 
and Buddhist? It is very good. And even better is a little pamphlet 
published by the London Buddhist Society, called the Essence of 
Buddhism. This last is really admirable. It makes one realize how 
much subtler these Far Eastern Buddhists were, in matters of psy- 
chology, than anyone in the West. They know all about "existential 
experiences" and the horrors of the human situation as described 
by Sartre, Camus and the rest— and they know how to come through 
to the other side, where every relative manifests absolute Suchness, 
and where Suchness is identical with mahakaruna, the Great Com- 
passion. , . . 

Yours affectionately, 

TO J. B. RHINE [smith 777] 

The Shoreham, 
New York 19, N.Y. 
19 September, 1957 
Dear JB, 

Thank you for your letters of August 15th, which finds me in New 
York, wrestling with the preliminaries to the production of a play. 

The only information about the effects of LSD on ESP comes from 
my friend Dr. Humphry Osmond, who found that there seemed to 
be telepathic rapport between himself and another man, while both 
were under the influence of the drug. They didn't do any systematic 
tests, however. And the trouble here is that people under LSD or 
mescalin are generally in a state of intenser, more significant ex- 
perience—a state in which they are apt to become extremely impatient 
with the learned foolery of statistics, repeated experiments, scientific 

Letters (( 133 

precautions, questions by investigators etc. It is rather like asking 
somebody who is Hstening with rapt attention to a Bach Prelude and 
Fugue, or is in the midst of making love, to answer a questionnaire. 
Human beings, as you have certainly found, are not very good guinea 
pigs, except on the more rudimentary levels of their vital activity. 

Yours sincerely, 
Aldous H. 

Chapter 22 


Chemical Persuasion 


Brave New World Revisited is based upon a series of articles 
originally published in early 1958 as a supplement to Newsday 
In a letter to his brother Julian, Aldous describes the subject- 
contemporary evidence for the fulfilment of his ig^2 prophecy of 
mind-control under a totalitarian state through the use of drugs 
and other means— as "curious and depressing." In the following 
chapter from the book Huxley elucidates the distinction between 
the soma of the ancient Aryan invaders of India and the soma of 
Brave New World, which had "none of the drawbacks of the 
Indian original," and was "one of the most powerful instruments of 
rule in the dictator's armory." He provides an excellent run-down 
of psychoactive drugs and their potentiality for good and for harm. 
In passing he shows a familiarity with the findings of the La- 
Guardia Report, published in ig^^ but suppressed for its conclu- 
sions that marijuana posed no grave dangers to society (there is 
no evidence that Huxley tried marijauna). 

In The Brave New^ World of my fable there was no whisky, no 
tobacco, no illicit heroin, no bootlegged cocaine. People neither 
smoked, nor drank, nor sniffed, nor gave themselves injections. 
Whenever anyone felt depressed or below par, he would swallow a 
tablet or two of a chemical compound called soma. The original soma, 
from which I took the name of this hypothetical drug, was an unknown 
plant (possibly Asclepias acida) used by the ancient Aryan invaders 
of India in one of the most solemn of their religious rites. The 
intoxicating juice expressed from the stems of this plant was drunk 
by the priests and nobles in the course of an elaborate ceremony. 
In the Vedic hymns we are told that the drinkers of soma were blessed 

Chemical Persuasion (( 135 

in many ways. Their bodies were strengthened, their hearts were filled 
with courage, joy and enthusiasm, their minds were enlightened and 
in an immediate experience of eternal life they received the assurance 
of their immortality. But the sacred juice had its drawbacks. Soma was 
a dangerous drug— so dangerous that even the great sky-god, Indra, 
was sometimes made ill by drinking it. Ordinary mortals might even 
die of an overdose. But the experience was so transcendently blissful 
and enlightening that soma drinking was regarded as a high privilege. 
For this privilege no price was too great. 

The soma of Brave New World had none of the drawbacks of its 
Indian original. In small doses it brought a sense of bliss, in larger 
doses it made you see visions and, if you took three tablets, you would 
sink in a few minutes into refreshing sleep. And all at no physiological 
or mental cost. The Brave New Worlders could take holidays from 
their black moods, or from the familiar annoyances of everyday life, 
without sacrificing their health or permanently reducing their efficiency. 

In the Brave New World the soma habit was not a private vice; 
it was a political institution, it was the very essence of the Life, 
Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. 
But this most precious of the subjects' inahenable privileges was at 
the same time one of the most powerful instruments of rule in the 
dictator's armory. The systematic drugging of individuals for the benefit 
of the State (and incidentally, of course, for their own delight) 
was a main plank in the policy of the World Controllers. The daily 
soma ration was an insurance against personal maladjustment, social 
unrest and the spread of subversive ideas. Religion, Karl Marx declared, 
is the opium of the people. In the Brave New World this situation 
was reversed. Opium, or rather soma, was the people's religion. Like 
religion, the drug had power to console and compensate, it called up 
visions of another, better world, it offered hope, strengthened faith 
and promoted charity. Beer, a poet has written, 

. . , does more than Milton can 
To justify God's ways to man. 

And let us remember that, compared with soma, beer is a drug of 
the crudest and most unreliable kind. In this matter of justifying God's 
ways to man, soma is to alcohol as alcohol is to the theological 
arguments of Milton. 

In 1931, when I was writing about the imaginary synthetic by 
means of which future generations would be made both happy and 
docile, the well-known American biochemist, Dr. Irvine Page, was 
preparing to leave Germany, where he had spent the three preceding 

136 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

years at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, working on the chemistry of 
the brain. "It is hard to understand," Dr. Page has written in a 
recent article, "why it took so long for scientists to get around to 
investigating the chemical reactions in their own brains. I speak," 
he adds, "from acute personal experience. Wlien I came home in 
1931 ... I could not get a job in this field (the field of brain 
chemistry) or stir a ripple of interest in it." Today, twenty-seven years 
later, the non-existent ripple of 1931 has become a tidal wave of 
biochemical and psychopharmacological research. The enzymes which 
regulate the workings of the brain are being studied. Within the body, 
hitherto unknown chemical substances such as adrenochrome and 
serotonin (of which Dr. Page was a co-discoverer) have been isolated 
and their far-reaching effects on our mental and physical functions 
are now being investigated. Meanwhile new drugs are being synthesized 
—drugs that reinforce or correct or interfere with the actions of the 
various chemicals, by means of which the nervous system performs 
its daily and hourly miracles as the controller of the body, the instru- 
ment and mediator of consciousness. From our present point of view, 
the most interesting fact about these new drugs is that they tem- 
porarily alter the chemistry of the brain and the associated state of 
the mind without doing any permanent damage to the organism as 
a whole. In this respect they are like soma— and profoundly unlike 
the mind-changing drugs of the past. For example, the classical 
tranquillizer is opium. But opium is a dangerous drug which, from 
neolithic times down to the present day, has been making addicts 
and ruining health. Tlie same is true of the classical euphoric, alcohol 
—the drug which, in the words of the Psalmist, "maketh glad the 
heart of man." But unfortunately alcohol not only maketh glad the 
heart of man; it also, in excessive doses, causes illness and addiction, 
and has been a main source, for the last eight or ten thousand years, 
of crime, domestic unhappiness, moral degradation and avoidable 

Among the classical stimulants, tea, coffee and mate are, thank 
goodness, almost completely harmless. They are also very weak 
stimulants. Unlike these "cups that cheer but not inebriate," cocaine 
is a very powerful and a very dangerous drug. Those who make use of 
it must pay for their ecstasies, their sense of unlimited physical and 
mental power, by spells of agonizing depression, by such horrible 
physical symptoms as the sensation of being infested by myriads of 
crawling insects and by paranoid delusions that may lead to crimes 
of violence. Another stimulant of more recent vintage is amphetamine, 
better known under its trade name of Benzedrine. Amphetamine works 
very effectively— but works, if abused, at the expense of mental and 

Chemical Persuasion (( 137 

physical health. It has been reported that, in Japan, there are now 
about one million amphetamine addicts. 

Of the classical vision-producers the best known are the peyote 
of Mexico and the southwestern United States and Cannabis sativa, 
consumed all over the world under such names as hashish, bhang, 
kif and marijuana. According to the best medical and anthropological 
evidence, peyote is far less harmful than the White Man's gin or 
whisky. It permits the Indians who use it in their religious rites to 
enter paradise, and to feel at one with the beloved community, without 
making them pay for the privilege by anything worse than the ordeal 
of having to chew on something with a revolting flavor and of feeling 
somewhat nauseated for an hour or two. Cannabis sativa is a less 
innocuous drug— though not nearly so harmful as the sensation-mongers 
would have us believe. The Medical Committee, appointed in 1944 
by the Mayor of New York to investigate the problem of marijuana, 
came to the conclusion, after careful investigation, that Cannabis 
sativa is not a serious menace to society, or even to those who indulge 
in it. It is merely a nuisance. 

From these classical mind-changers we pass to the latest products 
of psychopharmacological research. Most highly publicized of these 
are the three new tranquillizers, reserpine, chlorpromazine and mepro- 
bamate. Administered to certain classes of psychotics, the first two 
have proved to be remarkably effective, not in curing mental illnesses, 
but at least in temporarily abolishing their more distressing symptoms. 
Meprobamate (alias Miltown) produces similar effects in person suffer- 
ing from various forms of neurosis. None of these drugs is perfectly 
harmless; but their cost, in terms of physical health and mental 
efficiency, is extraordinarily low. In a world where nobody gets anything 
for nothing tranquillizers offer a great deal for very little. Miltown 
and chlorpromazine are not yet soma; but they come fairly near to 
being one of the aspects of that mythical drug. They provide tem- 
porary relief from nervous tension without, in the great majority of 
cases, inflicting permanent organic harm, and without causing more 
than a rather slight impairment, while the drug is working, of intel- 
lectual and physical efficiency. Except as narcotics, they are probably 
to be preferred to the barbiturates, which blunt the mind's cutting 
edge and, in large doses, cause a number of undesirable psychophysical 
symptoms and may result in a full-blown addiction. 

In LSD-25 (lysergic acid diethylamide) the pharmacologists have 
recently created another aspect of soma— a perception-improver and 
vision-producer that is, physiologically speaking, almost costless. This 
extraordinary drug, which is effective in doses as small as fifty or even 
twenty-five millionths of a gram, has power (like peyote) to transport 

138 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

people into the other world. In the majority of cases, the other world 
to which LSD-25 gives access is heavenly; alternatively it may be 
purgatorial or even infernal. But, positive or negative, the lysergic acid 
experience is felt by almost ever)one who undergoes it to be profoundly 
significant and enlightening. In any event, the fact that minds can be 
changed so radically at so little cost to the body is altogether 

Soma was not only a vision-producer and a tranquillizer; it was also 
(and no doubt impossibly) a stimulant of mind and body, a creator of 
active euphoria as well as of the negative happiness that follows the 
release from anxiety and tension. 

The ideal stimulant— powerful but innocuous— still awaits dis- 
covery. Amphetamine, as we have seen, was far from satisfactory; 
it exacted too high a price for what it gave. A more promising 
candidate for the role of soma in its third aspect is Iproniazid, which 
is now being used to lift depressed patients out of their misery, to 
enliven the apathetic and in general to increase the amount of available 
psychic energy. Still more promising, according to a distinguished 
pharmacologist of my acquaintance, is a new compound, still in the 
testing stage, to be known as Deaner. Deaner is an amino-alcohol and 
is thought to increase the production of acetyl-choline within the body, 
and thereby to increase the activity and effectiveness of the nervous 
system. The man who takes the new pill needs less sleep, feels more 
alert and cheerful, thinks faster and better— and all at next to no 
organic cost, at any rate in the short run. It sounds almost too good 
to be true. 

We see then that, though soma does not }'et exist (and will probably 
never exist), fairly good substitutes for the various aspects of soma 
have already been discovered. There are now physiologically cheap 
tranquillizers, phjsiologically cheap vision-producers and physiologically 
cheap stimulants. 

Tliat a dictator could, if he so desired, make use of these drugs for 
political purposes is obvious. He could ensure himself against political 
unrest by changing the chemistry of his subjects' brains and so making 
them content with their servile condition. He could use tranquillizers 
to calm the excited, stimulants to arouse enthusiasm in the indifferent, 
hallucinants to distract the attention of the wretched from their miseries. 
But how, it may be asked, will the dictator get his subjects to take 
the pills that \\ill make them think, feel and behave in the ways he 
finds desirable? In all probability it will be enough merely to make 
the pills available. Today alcohol and tobacco are available, and people 
spend considerably more on these very unsatisfactory euphorics, pseudo- 
stimulants and sedatives than they are ready to spend on the education 

Chemical Persuasion ((139 

of their children. Or consider the barbiturates and the tranquiHizers. 
In the United States these drugs can be obtained only on a doctor's 
prescription. But the demand of the American public for something 
that will make life in an urban-industrial environment a little more 
tolerable is so great that doctors are now writing prescriptions for 
the various tranquillizers at the rate of fort)'-eight millions a year. 
Moreover, a majority of these prescriptions are refilled. A hundred 
doses of happiness are not enough: send to the drugstore for another 
bottle— and, when that is finished, for another. . . . Tliere can be no 
doubt that, if tranquillizers could be bought as easily and cheaply 
as aspirin, they would be consumed, not by the billions, as they are 
at present, but by the scores and hundreds of billions. And a good, 
cheap stimulant would be almost as popular. 

Under a dictatorship pharmacists would be instructed to change 
their tune with every change of circumstances. In times of national 
crisis it would be their business to push the sale of stimulants. Be- 
tween crises, too much alertness and energy on the part of his subjects 
might prove embarrassing to the tyrant. At such times the masses 
would be urged to buy tranquillizers and vision-producers. Under the 
influence of these soothing syrups they could be relied upon to give 
their master no trouble. 

As things now stand, the tranquillizers may prevent some people 
from giving enough trouble, not only to their rulers, but even to 
themselves. Too much tension is a disease; but so is too little. There 
are certain occasions when we ought to be tense, when an excess of 
tranquillity (and especially of tranquillity imposed from the outside, 
by a chemical) is entirely inappropriate. 

At a recent symposium on meprobamate, in which I was a participant, 
an eminent biochemist playfully suggested that the United States 
government should make a free gift to the Soviet people of fifty 
billion doses of this most popular of the tranquillizers. The joke had 
a serious point to it. In a contest between two populations, one of 
which is being constantly stimulated by threats and promises, constantly 
directed by one-pointed propaganda, while the other is no less constantly 
being distracted by television and tranquillized by Miltown, which 
of the opponents is more likely to come out on top? 

As well as tranquillizing, hallucinating and stimulating, the soma of 
my fable had the power of heightening suggestibility, and so could be 
used to reinforce the effects of governmental propaganda. Less effectively 
and at a higher physiological cost, several drugs already in the pharma- 
copoeia can be used for the same purpose. There is scopolamine, 
for example, the active principle of henbane and, in large doses, a 
powerful poison; there are pentothal and sodium amytal. Nicknamed 

140 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

for some odd reason "the truth serum," penthothal has been used 
by the poHce of various countries for the purpose of extracting con- 
fessions from (or perhaps suggesting confessions to) reluctant criminals. 
Pentothal and sodium amytal lower the barrier between the conscious 
and the subconscious mind and are of great value in the treatment 
of "battle fatigue" by the process known in England as "abreaction 
therapy," in America as "narcosyn thesis." It is said that these drugs 
are sometimes employed by the Communists, when preparing im- 
portant prisoners for their public appearance in court. 

Meanwhile pharmacology, biochemistry and neurology are on the 
march, and we can be quite certain that, in the course of the next 
few years, new and better chemical methods for increasing suggestibility 
and lowering psychological resistance will be discovered. Like everything 
else, these discoveries may be used \\el\ or badly. They may help the 
psychiatrist in his battle against mental illness, or they may help the 
dictator in his battle against freedom. More probably (since science 
is divinely impartial) they will both enslave and make free, heal and 
at the same time destrov. 

Chapter 23 



Huxley traveled and lectured abroad in 1958. Dr. Albert Hofniann, 
discoverer of LSD in 1943, had just succeeded in isolating and 
identifying the active principle, psilocyhin, in the sacred mush- 
room of Mexico, formally introduced to Western culture by 
R. G. Wasson and Prof. Roger Heim; his research interested 
Huxley in this new door to the Other World. In letters to Osmond, 
Huxley expressed his interest in a variety of experiments: LSD 
and hypnosis, psychedelics given to artists and to non-visualizers, 
and— prophetically in view of his own situation five years later- 
giving LSD to terminal cancer patients. He also posited a series 
of guidelines for psychedelic sessions, and reviewed literary classics 
in the light of the transcendent state. In his writing he turned 
back to his novel, "a kind of reverse Brave New World," which 
he called his "Topian phantasy." 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 787] 

^2y6 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Cal. 
11 January, [1958] 
Dear Humphry, 

... As for the guide for persons taking mescalin or LSD-25— I have 
been too busy to work this out, but will try to do so before too long. 
I think the best way of doing the job would be to ask a series of 
questions. For example, "Do you now understand what Blake meant 
when he said, 'Gratitude is heaven itself?" "Eckhart defined God 
in operational terms as, The denial of all denials.' What is your 

142 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

feeling about this?" "What does the word 'isness' mean to you as you 
look at the world around you?" "Samsara and Nirvana are one— the 
Absolute is present in every relative and particular event. Eternity 
manifests itself in every moment of time. How do you feel about these 
paradoxes?" "In spite of all appearances to the contrary, God is love 
and things are somehow all right. What about it?" "Cleave the wood 
and you will find me, lift the stone and I am there." "What a miracle 
this is! Drawing water and chopping wood." "The meanest flea as it is 
in God is superior to the highest angel as he is in himself." It would 
be possible to put together several dozens of such short questions 
and statements, to be submitted to the subject in the course of his 
experience. If he set his mind to them, they might act as Zen koans 
and cause sudden openings into hitherto unglimpsed regions. It is 
certainly worth trying. If you think this approach is sound, I will go 
ahead with the plan. 

Let me hear what you feel about the Commission and the advisabihty 
of a change in the present set up. 

P.S. How well I understand what you say about writing! It seems so 
easy and it is so difficult. And, over and above the normal difEculties, 
I have to wrestle with the problem of not seeing properly— which makes 
all research and consulting of notes an enormous burden. Which is 
all, no doubt, ultimately All Right— but proximately pretty fatiguing! 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 788] 

^2j6 Deronda Dr., 
Los Angeles 28, Cal. 
2 February, 1958 
Dear Humphry, 

We had dinner yesterday evening with [ ], and I found him, 

I must say, extremely genial and less extravagant than formerly; so 
please ignore what I wrote in my last letter about him. At the same 
time I still have doubts about the general validity of his methods. 
The specifically ritual approach may be all right in some cases, but 
it certainly won't do in all cases. Moreover both Laura and I felt, while 

we listened to [ ]'s account of what he does, that he gives, knowingly 

or unkno\A'ingly, altogether too much suggestion. Again, this may be all 

Letters ( ( 1^3 

right in some cases— but decidedly not in all. Something more permissive 
should be the general rule, I feel. As for the projected meeting— 

[ ] tells me that he doesn't see much point in it. Gerald won't 

be available during February. Sidney Cohen^ doesn't object, but feels 
no very great enthusiasm. As for myself, I don't really know. I am any- 
how merely a spectator, not a worker in the field, and can only make 
suggestions from the outside and on theoretical grounds— as I did in 
regard to giving post-hypnotic suggestions to the effect that LSD ex- 
periences be revived by purely psychological means and at will (a 
suggestion, incidentally, which I have been making to all and sundry 
for the last three years, and which nobody, to my knowledge, has yet 
acted upon— though everyone says, "How interesting!") If we have a 
meeting of this highly Pickwickian organization, what (outside the 
pleasure and interest of meeting a number of intelligent people inter- 
ested in the same sort of thing) will be gained? Probably it would be 
worth meeting for the meeting's sake. Would there be ulterior advan- 
tages? [ ] tells me you think of setting up a Headquarters some- 
where. But this means money, a secretary, a director. Couldn't the 
same results be attained more simply and cheaply by discussing matters 
at a meeting, or by correspondence, and dividing up the work among 
the various experimenters? Sid Cohen has an interesting project which 
he hopes to get financed— a project that would test the efficacy of 
graded doses of LSD in affecting the performance of a group of profes- 
sional artists. Another important project would be to give the drug to 
a group carefully selected to include representatives of the Sheldonian 
extremes and of the commoner specimens in the middle. Yet another 
project should be to find out whether people belonging to Galton's 
non-visualizing variety of human beings ever see visions under average 
doses of LSD, whether they can be made to see visions by large doses, 

and whether (as [ ] insists they can) be made to see visions by 

suitable suggestions. Yet another project— the administration of LSD 
to terminal cancer cases, in the hope that it would make dying a more 
spiritual, less strictly physiological process. I have been asked by the 
Saturday Evening Post to do a piece on the ethical, religious and social 
implications of psychopharmacology and I shall certainly make these 
suggestions in the article, and any others you and anyone else in the 
field think should be made. If you decide to come here, we can talk 
about this. Otherwise I'd be grateful for any epistolary suggestions. 
Let me know what you and Abe [Hoffer] think about the advisability 

1 Los Angeles psychiatrist, author of The Beyond Within: The LSD Story 
(1964) and LSD (1967), the latter with R. Alpert. 

144 ) ) ^^^^ ^ I Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

of a meeting. I have no strong feehngs one way or another— except 
that I should certainly like to see you. 

Meanwhile I am very busy on my articles on the fate of liberty in 
the modern world. Tlie problem is to keep it snappy, but not to over- 
simplify or leave out too much. 

Ever yourSf 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 790] 

^2y6 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Col. 
16 February, 1958 
Dear Humphry, 

. . . One of the things that should be read to a person under LSD 
is Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, including the extraordinary 
"Memorable Fancies" that precede and follow the "Proverbs of Hell." 
Read the thing through and see if you don't agree. I'm sure that if 
this were put on a tape it would be found extremely enlightening by 
the subject. Incidentally, I found on one of the occasions I took LSD 
that listening to records of poetry or of religious utterances is valuable 
in many ways. There is first of all the same strange experience which 
one gets from listening to music— the sense that, though the tempo 
remains unaltered, the piece endures for ages. The poetry or the reli- 
gious utterances take on this same quasi-eternal quality. Another inter- 
esting point— one seems to penetrate the inner significance of what is 
being read, the meaning for oneself, more completely than in ordinary 
circumstances. Thus, the cultured melancholy resignation of Matthew 
Arnold, which I ordinarily like and feel at home with, is felt under 
LSD to be far too negative— unrealistically so. 

I have just had a letter from [Duncan] Blewett^ suggesting a date 
in early May for a meeting. Alternately one in October. I don't expect 
to be here in October, but shall almost certainly be here in May. 

My love to the family. 


2 Canadian psychologist, colleague of Osmond, Hoffer and Smythies at the 
University of Saskatchewan, author of Frontiers of Being (1969). 

Letters ( ( 145 

TO DR. ALBERT HOFMANN ' [smith 796] 

Gran Hotel Bolivar, Lima 
3 August, 1958 
Dear Dr. Hofmann, 

Your letter of July i6tli reached me just as I was setting out for 
South America, and I am writing now from Peru (the land of a most 
unsatisfactory and dangerous mind-changing drug— coca— still con- 
sumed in great quantities by the Indians, mainly, I am told, to suppress 
the pains of hunger, only too common in the high Andes). 

What you say about psillocybin [psilocybin] interests me very much, 
and I hope that I may have an opportunity of learning more about this 
new door into the Other World of the mind while I am in Europe 
this autumn. 

Do you intend to be present at the pharmacological Congress in 
Rome in September? It is possible that I may be there as an interested 
observer and learner— but I am not yet certain if I can manage it. . . . 
If we do not meet in Rome, I will trv' to visit you in Switzerland. 

Yours very truly, 
Mdous Huxley 

^Hofmann synthesized LSD and was the first person to test its effects (1943); 
he successfully isolated and identified psilocybin from the sacred mushrooms of 
Mexico (1957), and lysergic acid alkaloids from the ancient Aztec drug ololiuqui. 
He and Huxley did not meet until 1961, as Huxley missed the Rome rendezvous. 

Chapter 24 


Drugs that Shape 
Men's Minds 


ITie Saturday Evening Post commissioned the following article^ 
and Huxley seized the opportunity to express some of his revolu- 
tionary views to a mass audience. He believed that alcoholism 
and other forms of drug addiction were as much a consequence 
of self-transcendent yearnings as were mystical theology, spiritual 
exercises, and yoga. The manner in which society treats this phe- 
nomenon—selective prohibition with taxation, or outright sup- 
pression—has caused "millions of would-be mystics to become 
addicts." But here Huxley is more optimistic than in "Brave New 
World Revisited," pointing towards chemically-induced "height- 
ened intelligence" and spiritual evolution. Noting the predomi- 
nance of the religious experience in peyote and LSD sessions, he 
predicted the religious revival— the Journey to the East, in Hesse's 
phrase— which shook Western society a decade later, when psy- 
chedelics and Hindu and Buddhist spiritual techniques became 
available to large numbers of youths. But the widespread and 
casual social use of psychedelic substances, often adulterated, 
would have appalled and certainly saddened Huxley. 

This essay represents Huxley's homage to William James, the 
great American psychologist and philosopher, who experimented 
with two mind alterants: peyote and nitrous oxide. 

In The Course Of History many more people have died for their drink 
and their dope than have died for their rehgion or their country. The 

Drugs that Shape Men's Minds ( ( 147 

craving for ethyl alcohol and the opiates has been stronger, in these 
millions, than the love of God, of home, of children; even of life. Their 
cry was not for liberty or death; it was for death preceded by enslave- 
ment. There is a paradox here, and a mystery. Wliy should such multi- 
tudes of men and women be so ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause 
so utterly hopeless and in ways so painful and so profoundly humili- 

To this riddle there is, of course, no simple or single answer. Human 
beings are immensely complicated creatures, living simultaneously in 
a half dozen different worlds. Each individual is unique and, in a num- 
ber of respects, unlike all the other members of the species. None of 
our motives is unmixed, none of our actions can be traced back to a 
single source and, in any group we care to study, behavior patterns 
that are observably similar may be the result of many constellations of 
dissimilar causes. 

Tlius, there are some alcoholics who seem to have been biochemi- 
cally predestined to alcoholism. (Among rats, as Prof. Roger Williams, 
of the University of Texas, has shown, some are bom drunkards; some 
are born teetotalers and will never touch the stuff.) Other alcoholics 
have been foredoomed not by some inherited defect in their biochem- 
ical make-up, but by their neurotic reactions to distressing events in 
their childhood or adolescence. Again, others embark upon their course 
of slow suicide as a result of mere imitation and good fellowship be- 
cause they have made such an "excellent adjustment to their group" 
—a process which, if the group happens to be criminal, idiotic or 
merely ignorant, can bring only disaster to the well-adjusted individual. 
Nor must we forget that large class of addicts who have taken to drugs 
or drink in order to escape from physical pain. Aspirin, let us remem- 
ber, is a very recent invention. Until late in the Victorian era, "poppy 
and mandragora," along with henbane and ethyl alcohol, were the only 
pain relievers available to civilized man. Toothache, arthritis and 
neuralgia could, and frequently did, drive men and women to become 
opium addicts. 

De Quincey, for example, first resorted to opium^ in order to relieve 
"excruciating rheumatic pains of the head." He swallowed his poppy 
and, an hour later, "What a resurrection from the lowest depths of the 
inner spirit! What an apocalypse!" And it was not merely that he felt 
no more pain. "This negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity 
of those positive effects which had opened up before me, in the abyss 
of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed. . . . Here was the secret of 

^ De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (London, 1822) was 
the first drug confessional and case histoty in literature. 

148 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary ExperiencQ 

happiness, about which the philosophers had disputed for so many 
ages, at once discovered," 

"Resurrection, apocalypse, divine enjoyment, happiness. . . ." De 
Quincey's words lead us to the very heart of our paradoxical mystery. 
The problem of drug addiction and excessive drinking is not merely a 
matter of chemistry and psychopathology, of relief from pain and con- 
formity with a bad society. It is also a problem in metaphysics— a 
problem, one might almost say, in theology. In The Varieties of Reli- 
gious Experience (1902), William James has touched on these meta- 
physical aspects of addiction: 

The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to 
its power to stimulate the mystical faculties in human nature, 
usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of 
the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates and says no. 
Drunkenness expands, unites and says yes. It is in fact the great 
exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the 
chill periphery of things into the radiant core. It makes him for 
the moment one with truth. Not through mere perversity do 
men run after it. To the poor and unlettered it stands in the 
place of symphony concerts and literature and it is part of the 
deeper myster}' and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of 
something that we immediately recognize as excellent should 
be vouchsafed to so many of us only through the fleeting earlier 
phases of what, in its totality, is so degrading a poison. The 
drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, 
and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion 
of that larger whole. 

William James ^^•as not the first to detect a likeness between drunk- 
enness and the mystical and premystical states. On that day of Pente- 
cost there were people who explained the strange behavior of the 
disciples by saying, 'These men are full of new wine." 

Peter soon undeceived them : "These are not drunken, as ye suppose, 
seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was 
spoken by the prophet Joel. And it shall come to pass in the last days, 
saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh." 

And it is not only by "the dr}' critics of the sober hour" that the 
state of God-intoxication has been likened to drunkenness. In their 
efforts to express the inexpressible, the great mystics themselves have 
done the same. Thus, St. Theresa of Avila tells us that she "regards the 
centre of our soul as a cellar, into which God admits us as and when 
it pleases Him, so as to intoxicate us with the delicious wine of His 

Drugs that Shape Men's Minds ( ( 149 

Every fully developed religion exists simultaneously on several dif- 
ferent levels. It exists as a set of abstract concepts about the world 
and its governance. It exists as a set of rites and sacraments, as a tradi- 
tional method for manipulating the symbols, by means of which beliefs 
about the cosmic order are expressed. It exists as the feelings of love, 
fear and devotion evoked by this manipulation of symbols. 

And finally it exists as a special kind of feeling or intuition— a sense 
of the oneness of all things in their divine principle, a realization (to 
use the language of Hindu theology) that "thou art That," a mystical 
experience of what seems self-evidently to be union with God. 

The ordinary waking consciousness is a very useful and, on most 
occasions, an indispensable state of mind; but it is by no means the 
only form of consciousness, nor in all circumstances the best. Insofar 
as he transcends his ordinary self and his ordinary mode of awareness, 
the mystic is able to enlarge his vision, to look more deeply into the 
unfathomable miracle of existence. 

The mystical experience is doubly valuable; it is valuable because 
it gives the experiencer a better understanding of himself and the 
world and because it may help him to lead a less self-centered and 
more creative life. 

In hell, a great religious poet has written, the punishment of the 
lost is to be "their sweating selves, but worse." On earth we are not 
worse than we are, we are merely our sweating selves, period. 

Alas, that is quite bad enough. We love ourselves to the point of 
idolatry; but we also intensely dislike ourselves— we find ourselves 
unutterably boring. Correlated with this distaste for the idolatrously 
worshipped self, there is in all of us a desire, sometimes latent, some- 
times conscious and passionately expressed, to escape from the prison 
of our individuality, an urge to self-transcendence. It is to this urge 
that we owe mystical theology, spiritual exercises and yoga— to this, 
too, that we owe alcoholism and drug addiction. 

Modern pharmacology has given us a host of new synthetics, but in 
the field of the naturally occurring mind changers it has made no 
radical discoveries. All the botanical sedatives, stimulants, vision re- 
vealers, happiness promoters and cosmic-consciousness arousers were 
found out thousands of years ago, before the dawn of history. 

In many societies at many levels of civilization attempts have been 
made to fuse drug intoxication with God-intoxication. In ancient 
Greece, for example, ethyl alcohol had its place in the established 
religion. Dionysus, or Bacchus, as he was often called, was a true 
divinity. His worshipers addressed him as Lusios, "Liberator," or as 
Theoinos, "Godwinc." The latter name telescopes fermented grape 
juice and the supernatural into a single pentecostal experience. "Born 

150 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

a god/' writes Euripides, "Bacchus is poured out as a hbation to the 
gods, and through him men receive good." Unfortunately they also 
receive harm. The blissful experience of self -transcendence which 
alcohol makes possible has to be paid for, and the price is exorbitantly 

Complete prohibition of all chemical mind changers can be decreed, 
but cannot be enforced, and tends to create more evils than it cures. 
Even more unsatisfactory has been the policy of complete toleration 
and unrestricted availability. In England, during the first years of the 
eighteenth century, cheap untaxed gin— "drunk for a penny, dead 
drunk for two-pence"— threatened society with complete demoraliza- 
tion. A century later, opium, in the form of laudanum, was reconciling 
the victims of the Industrial Revolution to their lot— but at an appall- 
ing cost in terms of addiction, illness and early death. Today most 
civilized societies follow a course between the tvs'o extremes of total 
prohibition and total toleration. Certain mind-changing drugs, such 
as alcohol, are permitted and made available to the public on payment 
of a very high tax, which tends to restrict their consumption. Other 
mind changers are unobtainable except under doctors' orders— or 
illegally from a dope pusher. In this way the problem is kept within 
manageable bounds. It is most certainly not solved. In their ceaseless 
search for self-transcendence, millions of would-be mystics become 
addicts, commit scores of thousands of crimes and are involved in 
hundreds of thousands of avoidable accidents. 

Do we have to go on in this dismal way indefinitely? Up until a few 
years ago, the answer to such a question would have been a rueful 
*Tes, we do." Today, thanks to recent developments in biochemistry 
and pharmacology, we are offered a workable alternative. We see that 
it may soon be possible for us to do something better in the way of 
chemical self-transcendence than what we have been doing so ineptly 
for the last seventy or eighty centuries. 

Is it possible for a powerful drug to be completely harmless? Per- 
haps not. But the physiological cost can certainly be reduced to the 
point where it becomes negligible. There are powerful mind changers 
which do their work without damaging the taker's psychophysical or- 
ganism and without inciting him to behave like a criminal or a lunatic. 
Biochemistry and pharmacology are just getting into their stride. 
Within a few years there will probably be dozens of powerful but— 
physiologically and socially speaking— very inexpensive mind changers 
on the market. 

In view of what we already have in the way of powerful but nearly 
harmless drugs; in view, above all, of what unquestionably we are very 
soon going to have— we ought to start immediately to give some serious 

Drugs that Shape Men's Minds ( ( 151 

thought to the problem of the new mind changers. How ought they to 
be used? How can they be abused? Will human beings be better and 
happier for their discovery? Or worse and more miserable? 

The matter requires to be examined from many points of view. It is 
simultaneously a question for biochemists and physicians, for psy- 
chologists and social anthropologists, for legislators and law-enforce- 
ment oflEcers. And finally it is an ethical question and a religious 
question. Sooner or later— and the sooner, the better— the various 
specialists concerned will have to meet, discuss and then decide, in the 
light of the best available evidence and the most imaginative kind of 
foresight, what should be done. Meanwhile let us take a preliminary 
look at this many-faceted problem. 

Last year American physicians wrote 48,000,000 prescriptions for 
tranquillizing drugs, many of which have been refilled, probably more 
than once. The tranquillizers are the best known of the new, nearly 
harmless mind changers. They can be used by most people, not 
indeed with complete impunity, but at a reasonably low physiological 
cost. Their enormous popularity bears witness to the fact that a great 
many people dislike both their environment and "their sweating 
selves." Under tranquillizers the degree of their self-transcendence is 
not very great; but it is enough to make all the difference, in many 
cases, between misery and contentment. 

In theory, tranquillizers should be given only to persons suffering 
from rather severe forms of neurosis or psychosis. In practice, unfortu- 
nately, many physicians have been carried away by the current phar- 
macological fashion and are prescribing tranquillizers to all and sundry. 
The history of medical fashions, it may be remarked, is at least as 
grotesque as the history of fashions in women's hats— at least as 
grotesque and, since human lives are at stake, considerably more tragic. 
In the present case, millions of patients who had no real need of the 
tranquillizers have been given the pills by their doctors and have learned 
to resort to them in every predicament, however triflingly uncomfort- 
able. This is very bad medicine and, from the pill taker's point of 
view, dubious morality and poor sense. 

There are circumstances in which even the healthy are justified in 
resorting to the chemical control of negative emotions. If you really 
can't keep your temper, let a tranquillizer keep it for you. But for 
healthy people to resort to a chemical mind changer every time they 
feel annoyed or anxious or tense is neither sensible nor right. Too much 
tension and anxiety can reduce a man's efficiency— but so can too 
little. There are many occasions \^hen it is entirely proper for us to 
feel concerned, when an excess of placidit}' might reduce our chances 
of dealing effectively with a ticklish situation. On these occasions, 

152 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

tension mitigated and directed from within by the psychological meth- 
ods of self-control is preferable from every point of view to complacency 
imposed from without by the methods of chemical control. 

And now let us consider the case— not, alas, a hypothetical case— 
of two societies competing with each other. In Society A, tranquillizers 
are available by prescription and at a rather stiff price— which means, 
in practice, that their use is confined to that rich and influential minor- 
ity which provides the society with its leadership. This minority of 
leading citizens consumes several billions of the complacency-produc- 
ing pills every year. In Society B, on the other hand, the tranquillizers 
are not so freely available, and the members of the influential minority 
do not resort, on the slightest provocation, to the chemical control of 
what may be necessary and productive tension. Which of these two 
competing societies is likely to win the race? A society whose leaders 
make an excessive use of soothing syrups is in danger of falling behind 
a society whose leaders are not over-tranquillized. 

Now let us consider another kind of drug- still undiscovered, but 
probably just around the corner— a drug capable of making people feel 
happy in situations where they would normally feel miserable. Such a 
drug would be a blessing, but a blessing fraught with grave political 
dangers. By making harmless chemical euphoria freely available, a 
dictator could reconcile an entire population to a state of affairs to 
which self-respecting human beings ought not to be reconciled. Despots 
have always found it necessary to supplement force by political or 
rehgious propaganda. In this sense the pen is mightier than the sword. 
But mightier than either the pen or the sword is the pill. In mental 
hospitals it has been found that chemical restraint is far more effective 
than strait jackets or psychiatry. The dictatorships of tomorrow will 
deprive men of their freedom, but will give them in exchange a hap- 
piness none the less real, as a subjective experience, for being chemi- 
cally induced. The pursuit of happiness is one of the traditional rights 
of man; unfortunately, the achievement of happiness may turn out to 
be incompatible with another of man's rights— namely, liberty. 

It is quite possible, however, that pharmacology will restore with 
one hand what it takes away with the other. Chemically induced 
euphoria could easily become a threat to individual liberty; but chemi- 
cally induced vigor and chemically heightened intelligence could easily 
be liberty's strongest bulwark. Most of us function at about 15 per 
cent of capacity. How can we step up our lamentably low efficiency? 

Two methods are available— the educational and the biochemical. 
We can take adults and children as they are and give them a much 
better training than we are giving them now. Or, by appropriate bio- 
chemical mehods, we can transform them into superior individuals. 

Drugs that Shape Men's Minds ( ( 153 

If these superior individuals are given a superior education, the results 
will be revolutionary. They will be startling even if we continue to 
subject them to the rather poor educational methods at present in 

Will it in fact be possible to produce superior individuals by bio- 
chemical means? The Russians certainly believe it. They are now half- 
way through a Five Year Plan to produce "pharmacological substances 
that normalize higher nervous activity and heighten human capacity 
for work." Precursors of these future mind improvers are already being 
experimented with. It has been found, for example, that when given 
in massive doses some of the vitamins— nicotinic acid and ascorbic 
acid are examples— sometimes produce a certain heightening of psychic 
energy. A combination of two enzymes— ethylene disulphonate and 
adenosine triphosphate, which, when injected together, improve carbo- 
hydrate metabolism in nervous tissue— may also turn out to be effec- 

Meanwhile good results are being claimed for various new synthetic, 
nearly harmless stimulants. There is iproniazid, which, according to 
some authorities, "appears to increase the total amount of psychic 
energy." Unfortunately, iproniazid in large doses has side effects which 
in some cases may be extremely serious! Another psychic energizer is 
an amino alcohol which is thought to increase the body's production 
of acetylcholine, a substance of prime importance in the functioning 
of the nervous system. In view of what has already been achieved, it 
seems quite possible that, within a few years, we may be able to lift 
ourselves up by our own biochemical bootstraps. 

In the meantime let us all fervently wish the Russians every success 
in their current pharmacological venture. The discovery of a drug 
capable of increasing the average individual's psychic energy, and its 
wide distribution throughout the U.S.S.R., would probably mean the 
end of Russia's present form of government. Generalized intelligence 
and mental alertness are the most powerful enemies of dictatorship and 
at the same time the basic conditions of effective democracy. Even in 
the democratic West we could do with a bit of psychic energizing. 
Between them, education and pharmacology may do something to 
offset the effects of that deterioration of our biological material to 
which geneticists have frequently called attention. 

From these political and ethical considerations let us now pass to 
the strictly religious problems that will be posed by some of the new 
mind changers. We can foresee the nature of these future problems 
by studying the effects of a natural mind changer, which has been 
used for centuries past in religious worship; I refer to the peyote cactus 
of Northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Peyote con- 

1^4 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

tains mescalin— which can now be produced synthetically— and mes- 
calin, in William James' phrase, "stimulates the mystical faculties in 
human nature" far more powerfully and in a far more enlightening 
way than alcohol and, what 'is more, it does so at a physiological and 
social cost that is negligibly low. Peyote produces self-transcendence 
in two ways— it introduces the taker into the Other World of vision- 
ary experience, and it gives him a sense of solidarity with his fellow 
worshippers, with human beings at large and with the divine nature 
of things. 

The effects of peyote can be duplicated by synthetic mescalin and 
by LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a derivative of ergot. Effective 
in incredibly small doses, LSD is now being used experimentally by 
psychotherapists in Europe, in South America, in Canada and the 
United States. It lowers the barrier between conscious and subcon- 
scious and permits the patient to look more deeply and understandingly 
into the recesses of his own mind. The deepening of self-knowledge 
takes place against a background of visionary and even mystical 

When administered in the right kind of psychological environment, 
these chemical mind changers make possible a genuine religious ex- 
perience. Thus a person who takes LSD or mescalin may suddenly 
understand— not only intellectually but organically, experientially— 
the meaning of such tremendous religious affirmations as "God is 
love," or "Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him." 

It goes without saying that this kind of temporary self-transcendence 
is no guarantee of permanent enlightenment or a lasting improvement 
of conduct. It is a "gratuitous grace," which is neither necessary nor 
sufficient for salvation, but which, if properly used, can be enormously 
helpful to those who have received it. And this is true of all such 
experiences, whether occurring spontaneously, or as the result of 
swallowing the right kind of chemical mind changer, or after under- 
taking a course of "spiritual exercises" or bodily mortification. 

Those who are offended by the idea that the swallowing of a pill 
may contribute to a genuinely religious experience should remember 
that all the standard mortifications— fasting, voluntary sleeplessness 
and self-torture- inflicted upon themselves by the ascetics of every 
rehgion for the purpose of acquiring merit, are also, like the mind- 
changing drugs, powerful devices for altering the chemistry of the 
body in general and the nervous system in particular. Or consider the 
procedures generally known as spiritual exercises. The breathing tech- 
niques taught by the yogi of India result in prolonged suspensions of 
respiration. These in turn result in an increased concentration of car- 
bon dioxide in the blood; and the psychological consequence of this 

Drugs that Shape Men's Minds (( 155 

is a change in the quahty of consciousness. Again, meditations involv- 
ing long, intense concentration upon a single idea or image may also 
result— for neurological reasons which I do not profess to understand 
—in a slowing down of respiration and even in prolonged suspensions 
of breathing. 

Many ascetics and mystics have practiced their chemistry-changing 
mortifications and spiritual exercises while living, for longer or shorter 
periods, as hermits. Now, the hfe of a hermit, such as Saint Anthony, 
is a life in which there are very few external stimuli. But as Hebb, John 
Lilly and other experimental psychologists have recently shown in the 
laboratory, a person in a limited environment, which provides very few 
external stimuli, soon undergoes a change in the quality of his con- 
sciousness and may transcend his normal self to the point of hearing 
voices or seeing visions, often extremely unpleasant, Hke so many of 
Saint Anthony's visions, but sometimes beatific. 

That men and women can, by physical and chemical means, tran- 
scend themselves in a genuinely spiritual way is something which, to 
the squeamish idealist, seems rather shocking. But, after all, the drug 
or the physical exercise is not the cause of the spiritual experience; 
it is only its occasion. 

Writing of William James' experiments with nitrous oxide, Bergson 
has summed up the whole matter in a few lucid sentences. "The psy- 
chic disposition was there, potentially, only waiting a signal to express 
itself in action. It might have been evoked spiritually by an effort made 
on his own spiritual level. But it could just as well be brought about 
materially, by an inhibition of what inhibited it, by the removing of 
an obstacle; and this effect was the wholly negative one produced by 
the drug." ^ Where, for any reason, physical or moral, the psychological 
dispositions are unsatisfactory, the removal of obstacles by a drug or by 
ascetic practices will result in a negative rather than a positive spiritual 
experience. Such an infernal experience is extremely distressing, but may 
also be extremely salutary. Tliere are plenty of people to whom a few 
hours in hell— the hell that they themselves have done so much to 
create— could do a world of good. 

Physiologically costless, or nearly costless, stimulators of the mystical 
faculties are now making their appearance, and many kinds of them 
will soon be on the market. We can be quite sure that, as and when 
they become available, they will be extensively used. Tlie urge to self- 
transcendence is so strong and so general that it cannot be otherwise. 
In the past, very few people have had spontaneous experiences of a 
pre-mystical or fully mystical nature; still fe\^'e^ have been willing to 

^Two Sources of Religion and Morality (1935). 

156 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

undergo the psychophysical disciplines which prepare an insulated 
individual for this kind of self-transcendence. The powerful but nearly 
costless mind changers of the future will change all this completely. 
Instead of being rare, premystical and mystical experiences will become 
common. What was once the spiritual privilege of the few will be 
made available to the many. For the ministers of the world's organized 
religions, this will raise a number of unprecedented problems. For 
most people, religion has always been a matter of traditional symbols 
and of their own emotional, intellectual and ethical response to those 
symbols. To men and women who have had direct experience of self- 
transcendence into the mind's Other World of vision and union with 
the nature of things, a religion of mere symbols is not likely to be very 
satisfying. The perusal of a page from even the most beautifully writ- 
ten cookbook is no substitute for the eating of dinner. We are exhorted 
to "taste and see that the Lord is good." 

In one way or another, the world's ecclesiastical authorities will have 
to come to terms with the new mind changers. They may come to 
terms with them negatively, by refusing to have anything to do with 
them. In that case, a psychological phenomenon, potentially of great 
spiritual value, will manifest itself outside the pale of organized religion. 
On the other hand, they may choose to come to terms with the mind 
changers in some positive way— exactly how, I am not prepared to 

My own belief is that, though they may start by being something of 
an embarrassment, these new mind changers will tend in the long run 
to deepen the spiritual life of the communities in which they are 
available. That famous "revival of religion," about which so many 
people have been talking for so long, will not come about as the result 
of evangelistic mass meetings or the television appearances of photo- 
genic clergymen. It will come about as the result of biochemical dis- 
coveries that will make it possible for large numbers of men and 
women to achieve a radical self-transcendence and a deeper under- 
standing of the nature of things. And this revival of religion will be 
at the same time a revolution. From being an activity mainly concerned 
with symbols, religion will be transformed into an activity concerned 
mainly with experience and intuition— an everyday mysticism under- 
lying and giving significance to everyday rationality, everyday tasks 
and duties, everyday human relationships. 

Chapter 25 



Huxley was visiting professor at the University of California at 
Santa Barbara, where he lectured on "The Human Condition"; 
the rest of his working time was devoted to ironing out the trou- 
blesome problem of a story-line for his Utopian phantasy. The 
American Academy of Arts and Letters honored him with their 
Award of Merit for the Novel, which had previously gone to 
Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann and Theodore Dreiser. Inter- 
viewed by Joe Hyams in This Week Magazine (8 Nov. 1959), 
Huxley said: ''The inner world is almost as large as outer space." 
To Father Thomas Merton he presented an eloquent defense of 
the validity of the drug-induced religious experience; and like- 
wise to Margaret Isherwood, using the phrase "going beyond 
vision" in describing his later sessions. He provides Osmond with 
examples both of successful and "vulgar . . . profoundly disturb- 
ing" cases of LSD therapy. Although LSD was not illegal until 
1966, the difficulty of a layman securing it in 1959 is evident in 
his request to Osmond. 

TO FR. THOMAS MERTON [smith 808] 

3276 Deronda Drive, 
Los Angeles 28, Cal. 
10 January, 1959 
Dear Father Merton, 

Thank you for your letter. The problems you raise are interesting 
and difficult, and their solution must be sought on the practical and 
factual level. A great deal of work has now been done on mescalin 

158 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

and lysergic acid, both by researchers and clinicians using the drugs 
therapeutically in such conditions as alcohohsm and assorted neuroses. 
(One group now working on alcoholism in British Columbia, inciden- 
tally, is using lysergic acid within a religious, specifically Catholic, 
frame of reference, and achieving remarkable results, largely by getting 
patients to reahze that the universe is profoundly different from what, 
on their ordinary, conditioned level of experience, it had seemed to be.) 
Statistically the results of all this experimentation are roughly as fol- 
lows. About seventy per cent of those who take the drug have a posi- 
tive experience; the others have a negative experience, which may be 
really infernal. (A great many of the states experienced by the desert 
fathers were negative. See the thousands of pictures of the Temptations 
of St. Anthony.) All agree that the experience is profoundly significant.^ 
One finds again and again, in the reports written by subjects after the 
event, the statement that "this is the most wonderful experience I 
have ever had" and "I feel that my life will never be quite the same 
again." Among the positive experiences a certain proportion, on the 
first occasion of taking the drug, are purely aesthetic— transfiguration 
of the outer world so that it is seen as the young Wordsworth saw it 
and later described it in the "Ode on the Intimations of Immortality 
in Childhood"; a universe of inconceivable beauty in which all things 
are full of life and charged with an obscure but immensely important 
meaning. Those who are congenitally good visualizers tend to see 
visions with the eyes closed, or even, projected upon the screen of the 
external world, with the eyes open. The nature of these visions is often 
paradisal and the descriptions of them remind one irresistibly of the 
description of the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse or the Eden of 
Ezekiel, or the various paradises of other religions. Finally there are 
those whose experience seems to be much more than aesthetic and may 
be labeled as pre-mystical or even, I believe, mystical. In the course of 
the last five years I have taken mescalin twice and lysergic acid three 
or four times. My first experience was mainly aesthetic. Later experi- 
ences were of another nature and helped me to understand many of 
the obscure utterances to be found in the writings of the mystics. 
Christian and Oriental. An unspeakable sense of gratitude for the 
privilege of being born into this universe. ("Gratitude is heaven itself," 
says Blake— and I know now exactly what he was talking about.) A 
transcendence of the ordinary subject-object relationship. A transcen- 

^ Fr. Merton had written to Huxley on 27 November, 1958, raising questions 
about the validity of drug-induced mystical experience and about the distinction 
between the mystical and the aesthetic, his letter having been prompted by Huxley's 
article "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds" in the Saturday Evening Post. [Smith's 

Letters (( 159 

dence of the fear of death, A sense of sohdarity with the world and its 
spiritual principle and the conviction that, in spite of pain, evil and the 
rest, everything is somehow all right. (One understands such phrases 
as, "Yea, though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" and the great 
utterance, I can't quote it exactly, of Julian of Nonvich.) Finally, an 
understanding, not intellectual, but in some sort total, an understand- 
ing with the entire organism, of the affirmation that God is Love. The 
experiences are transient, of course; but the memory of them, and the 
inchoate revivals of them which tend to recur spontaneously or during 
meditation, continue to exercise a profound effect upon one's mind. 
There seems to be no evidence in the published literature that the drug 
is habit forming or that it creates a craving for repetition. There is a 
feeling— I speak from personal experience and from word-of-mouth 
reports given me by others— that the experience is so transcendently 
important that it is in no circumstances a thing to be entered upon 
light-heartedly or for enjoyment. (In some respects, it is not enjoy- 
able; for it entails a temporary death of the ego, a going-beyond.) 
Those who desire to make use of this "gratuitous grace," to cooperate 
with it, tend to do so, not by lepeating the experiment at frequent 
intervals, but by trying to open themselves up, in a state of alert 
passivity, to the transcendent "isness," to use Eckhart's phrase, which 
they have known and, in some sort, been. Theoretically, there exists 
a danger that subjects would have a craving for constant repetition 
of the chemically induced experience. In practice this craving doesn't 
seem to manifest itself. A repetition every year, or every six months, 
is felt, most often, to be the desirable regimen. 

A friend of mine, saved from alcoholism, during the last fatal phases 
of the disease, by a spontaneous theophany, which changed his life 
as completely as St. Paul's was changed by his theophany on the road 
to Damascus, has taken lysergic acid two or three times and affirms 
that his experience under the drug is identical with the spontaneous 
experience which changed his life— the only difference being that the 
spontaneous experience did not last so long as the chemically induced 
one. There is, obviously, a field here for serious and reverent experi- 

With all good wishes, I am 

Yours very sincerely, 
Aldous Huxley 

i6o ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 


^2y6 Deronda, L.A. 28, Cal. 
12 August, 1959 
Dear Margaret, 

Thank you for your letter. I am now more or less as good as new, 
thank goodness— had a really providential escape.^ As for visionary and 
mystical experience— I think they are different, but that the first is apt 
to lead into the second. In my first experiment with mescalin I had a 
merely aesthetic visionary experience: but since then, with LSD and 
again with mescalin, I have gone beyond vision into many of the 
experiences described in Eastern and Western literature— the tran- 
scendence of the subject-object relationship, the sense of solidarity with 
all the world so that one actually knows by experience what "God is 
love" means: the sense that, in spite of death and suffering, everything 
is somehow ultimately All Right (tho' he slay me, yet will I trust in 
him); the sense of boundless gratitude at being privileged to inhabit 
this universe. (Blake says, "Gratitude is heaven itself"— it used to be 
an incomprehensible phrase: now I know precisely what he was talking 

[Hugh] Fausset is quite wrong— speaking on a priori moralistic 
grounds and not out of direct experience. This matter of drugs and 
mystical experience was discussed years ago by Bergson in The Two 
Sources . . . apropos of Wm. James and laughing gas. That a chemical 
can help people to get out of their own light is distressing to many 
people; but it happens to be a fact. That the experience is a "gratuitous 
grace," neither necessary nor sufficient for salvation, is certain. Ethical 
and cognitive effort is needed if the experiencer is to go forward from 
his one-shot experience to permanent enlightenment. Yours, 


P.S. Gratuitous graces are not necessary or sufficient— but they can be 
very helpful if we choose to let them help us. 

P.P.S. Subud is simply a technique for reproducing the quaking of the 
early Quakers— a release via the muscles. Very good in many cases. 

2 Providential escape: despite his limited eyesight, Huxley sometimes took solitary 
night walks. On one of these he stumbled from the path and fell down an embank- 
ment. He was painfully but not seriously injured. [Smith's note] 

Letters ( ( 161 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 825] 

^2j6 Deronda Dr., 
LA. 28, Cal. 

29 November, 1959 
Dear Humphry, 

... I am near the end of my lecturing at Santa Barbara— one more 
panel discussion of a Darwin Centenary lecture by Prof. John Randall, 
and two more lectures of my own. After which I shall be free to work 
whole-time on my book. As for plans— I am invited to go in late March 
or April to Topeka, to be a visiting professor for a few weeks at the 
Menninger Foundation. It will be interesting, I think, to penetrate the 
holy of holies of American psychiatry and to take a searching look. 
Nathan BCline's report on Soviet psychiatry, as summarized in Time, 
was interesting and no doubt, to Menninger et al., disturbing. Have 
you read the full report? I think I will write and ask him to send it 
me. Laura, meanwhile, works away at her psychotherapy— with re- 
markable results in many cases: for she seems to have an intuitive 
knowledge of what to do at any given moment, what technique to use 
in each successive phase of the patient's mood and feeling. She has 
had some very good results with therapy under LSD in a few cases 
where the method seemed to be justifiable. (Incidentally, what fright- 
ful people there are in your profession! We met two Beverly Hills 
psychiatrists the other day, who specialize in LSD therapy at $100 a 
shot— and, really, I [have] seldom met people of lower sensitivity, more 
vulgar mind! To think of people made vulnerable by LSD being ex- 
posed to such people is profoundly disturbing. But what can one do 
about the problem? Psychiatry is an art based on a still imperfect 
science— and as in all the arts there are more bad and indifferent 
practitioners than good ones. How can one keep the bad artists out? 
Bad artists don't matter in painting or literature— but they matter 
enormously in therapy and education; for whole lives and destinies 
may be affected by their shortcomings. But one doesn't see any prac- 
tical \\'ay in which the ungifted and the unpleasant can be filtered out 
and only the gifted and good let through.) And talking of LSD- 
would it be possible for you to send me half a dozen doses of it? I 
want to try some experiments myself and Laura would like to give it 
to a couple of people, to round off their therapy. I don't \\'ant to bother 

i62 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

Sid Cohen too often— and don't want to have to ask people like [— ] 
or [— ] or [— ], who have the stuff, use it badly and of whom I disap- 
prove. If this is feasible, I'd be most grateful. And if it isn't feasible, 
who should I apply to in the Sandoz ^ set-up? 
Give my love to Jane and the children. 

Yours affectionately y 

1 Sandoz Ltd. of Basel was the chief distributor of LSD and psilocybin for re- 
search purposes until 1966. 

Chapter 16 


The Final Revolution 


Speaking again as a man of letters among scientists and tech- 
nicians, Huxley defined his task as creating "a bridge between 
science and the general world." He notes the superior ability of 
literary people to describe effects of drugs on the mind, and hopes 
for a language that will enable people "to talk about a mystical 
experience simultaneously in terms of theology, of psychology^ 
and of bio-chemistry y The drug prophecy of Brave New World, 
which the author supposed would not be realized for several cen- 
turies, was confirmed after just 2j years: there was now a patented 
drug on the market bearing the name "Soma!' Huxley urged his 
audience to deal with the question of the human being under 
pharmacological attack, recalling his warning made in ig^6 that 
"the propagandists of the future will probably be chemists and 
physiologists as well as writers." 

I ASKED MYSELF tonight what exactly I am doing in this company. I'm 
probably the only bachelor of arts in this large conference of doctors 
of various sciences. I come here as a kind of ignoramus in the midst of 
a great sea of specialized knowledge. There is a very curious line which 
has been preserved from the Greek poet Archilochus. It has been made 
the title of an interesting essay on Tolstoy by Isaiah Berlin. It runs as 
follows: 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one 
big thing." Now this is a cryptic line. But in the matter of natural 
history it is clear what it means: The fox has all kinds of tricks, but the 
hedgehog can fold itself up into a ball and can completely resist the 
fox. It is a line capable of application in many fields. In literature, for 
example, there are the fox writers and there are tlie hedgehog writers. 

164 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

There are the foxes, who look over an enormous area and know many, 
many things. The supreme example, of course, is Shakespeare. And 
there are the hedgehogs, who concentrate upon one idea and develop 
it to the limit, and here the supreme example is, of course, Dante. 

In the present instance I think we can apply this idea to the special- 
ists and non-specialists, and here I can say that I am a kind of rather 
low-class fox in the midst of a great number of very high-class hedge- 
hogs, and what am I doing? Wliat is the value of my presence here? 

Well, obviously I can't compete with any of the hedgehogs. I listen 
to the papers here and many of them to me are exceedingly interesting 
and I derive a great deal of profit from them. But I confess when the 
hedgehogs go too chemical, I just fold up and don't know what is 
being talked about. Nevertheless, I feel that the fox, with his knowl- 
edge, rather superficial knowledge, of many things, his wide-ranging 
many-pointed activity, has a value, and can do something, especially 
if he is prepared to work with the hedgehogs. 

We are up against, of course, the great problem of specialization. I 
was reading the other day an extremely interesting book which is 
going to come out this spring, dealing with my grandfather's activity 
as an educational reformer. He was, over and above his activities as a 
biologist, tremendously interested and active in social affairs, and he 
was largely responsible for the curriculum of the London School Board 
when education was made universal and gratuitous in England. And 
he did a great deal to make the University of London into a really 
modern university, with specialist departments in all fields. He real- 
ized you had to have specialization to explore the depths of scientific 

But the interesting thing is that twenty years later, two or three 
years before his death, he was deeply concerned with undoing the 
effects of specialization. He wanted to get the professors out of their 
separate pigeonholes, to meet together in a concerted effort to pool 
their specialized knowledge and to bring it out into the world. And 
after nearly seventy years, this remains one of our enormous problems. 
How to make the best of both worlds: the world of specialization, 
which is absolutely necessary, and the world of general communication 
and interest in the larger affairs of life, which is also necessary. 

And here I think the man of letters has a contribution to make. He 
can, if he chooses to associate a little with hedgehogs, do something 
to form a bridge between science and the general world. This seems 
to me a matter of crucial importance. We seem to have a really 
schizophrenic attitude now. 

If I had the control of education I would start pointing out to 
children, of quite small age, that the fundamental rule of morality. 

The Final Revolution ( ( 165 

the golden rule, begins on the sub-human level, even the sub-biologi- 
cal level. If you want nature to treat you well, you must treat nature 
well. If you start destroying nature, nature will destroy you, and this 
basic moral precept is fundamental in our present knowledge of 
ecology and conservation. What we know now about ecology points 
to the fact that nature exists in the most delicate balance, and that 
anything which tends to upset the balance will produce consequences 
of the most unexpected character and often of the most disastrous 
character. We see then that many of the most important ethical truths 
flow quite naturally and simply from scientific facts, and I feel very 
strongly that this kind of bridging between the world of pure science 
and the world of ethics should be made from the earliest age. 

But meanwhile, the man of letters can do a lot toward establishing 
this bridge. Men of letters have devoted a great deal of thought to the 
relationship between mind and body, brain and body, and general 
physique and spirit, and have produced some extremely interesting, 
what may be called pre-scientific, results in this field. For example, if 
one compares medieval psychology or the psychology of the 16th 
Century with the poetry of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, one perceives 
the enormous superiority of the literary artist to the scientific man of 
the period. The same is true of Shakespeare. When one examines the 
official psychology of the epoch, one is amazed by its crudity; but 
when one looks at the plays of Shakespeare, one is still more amazed 
by the enormous subtlety of the psychology, and the penetration of 
this extraordinary man. Official psychology, scientific psychology does 
not begin to catch up with literary psychology until well into the 
second half of the 19th century. It's incredible to perceive the barren- 
ness of the official psychological doctrine of the period in comparison 
with the literary psychology of such novelists as Balzac or Dickens or 
George Eliot or Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. One is astounded at the 
poverty of the scientific formulations in comparison with the extraor- 
dinary richness and subtlety which these men, through observation 
and intuition, had set down in their novels. It is amusing, also, to see 
the way in which certain of the problems which are being discussed 
now, the effect of drugs upon the mind for example, were discussed 
and understood by the great masters of literature in the past. 

We were mentioning the problem of alcohol just now. It's interesting 
to see how these men perceived the fact that the effects of alcohol were 
profoundly different according to the temperament and constitution 
of the persons who took it. And, incidentally, I haven't attended all 
the sittings of the conference to date, but among those I have attended 
I was struck by the absence of reference to the profoundly important 
fact that the human species is more variable than any other species in 

i66 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionaty Experience 

the whole realm of nature. In general we may say that specie vari- 
ability increases as we rise up the evolutionary scale, and that the 
maximum of variability is in the human species, that we are pro- 
foundly different as individuals, one from another, both structurally and 
even bio-chemically. And it is interesting, for example, to see the way 
Shakespeare points out that the drunkenness of a Falstaff is totally 
different from the drunkenness of a Cassio, a military figure belonging 
to the extreme of what Sheldon would call the somatic pole of human 
variability. Both these drunkennesses are again quite different from 
the drunkenness which would be manifested, for example, by a person 
with my kind of physique. ^Vhile I would be feeling extremely ill and 
very, very melancholy, Cassio would be extremely aggressive, and 
Falstaff would be extremely jolly. This profound variability between 
individuals is to be noted, I suppose, in regard to not merely alcohol, 
but to all other drugs. I merely point out this fact to show that the 
literary man has made very acute observations from very early on in 
the history of culture. 

We come now to the question of language. In his paper yesterday. 
Dr. Joel Elkes dwelled on the fact that the language is lacking for 
discussing many of these problems, and he expressed the hope that 
within a short time we should be able to make use of mathematics 
for these discussions. But so far as the general public is concerned, 
mathematics is not very helpful, and here the man of letters, I think, 
can perform a very important task. Our problem is to adapt a lan- 
guage which is not now suitable to describing the continuum of mind 
and body, a universe of complete continuity. Somehow or other we 
have to invent the means of talking about these problems in an artist- 
ically varied way which shall make them accessible to the general 
public. Ideally, for example, we ought to be able to talk about a 
mystical experience simultaneously in terms of theology, of psychology 
and of biochemistr}^ Tliis is a pretty tall order, but unless we can do 
something of the kind, it will remain extraordinarily difficult for 
people to think about this continuous web of life, to think about it as 
a continuum, and not in terms of the old Platonic and Cartesian 
dualism which so extraordinarily falsifies our picture of the world. 
How we are going to do this, how the literary men are going 
to achieve this miracle of language, I don't know, but I think it has to 
be achieved. And maybe we shall. Maybe some future Shakespeare 
will arise with an immense command of language, able to take our 
existing English, and somehow, by some miracle of poetrv^ or miracle 
of poetic prose, render this picture of a continuum. This is something 
I myself have thought about a great deal, and frankly I do not have 
enough talent for the task. 

The Final Revolution ( ( 167 

As long ago as the beginning of the 19th Century, Wordsworth in 
his preface to the Lyrical Ballads made the statement that the time 
would come when the remotest discovery of the physicist and the 
chemist would become a suitable subject for poetry. More than 150 
years have passed since then, and still these fields remain ver)' much 
apart. We have not yet made the fusion, and this is a matter men of 
letters should think about very carefully. 

So much for a sort of apology for my existence here. 

Let us get down to the theme of this talk, which I have called The 
Final Revolution. 

The Final Revolution, as I see it, is the application to human affairs, 
both on the social level and on the individual level, of technology. 
Now what is technology? Technology, technique in general, I suppose, 
is the application in a perfectly conscious and rational way of well- 
thought-out methods of doing things efficiently. The watchword is 

The beginnings of technology, in modern times, were in the field of 
industrial production, in the field of applying machines and factory 
work to the problems of producing, first, woven goods, then metal- 
lurgical goods, and increasingly to other manufacture. Then, with the 
creation of more and more complicated machinery, it became neces- 
sary to apply technique to specifically human spheres. In general wc 
may say that the more complicated the physical machinery is, the 
more complicated does the organization have to become in the society 
which uses these machines. 

The application of technique to sociological, political and govern- 
mental problems, of course, is ancient, if sporadic. For example, in the 
Old Testament, in the Book of Samuel and the Book of Chronicles, 
we read that King David ordered the numbering of people. He or- 
dered a census, which is one of the first procedures followed by any 
efficient and technically minded government. But it is interesting to 
note that David ordered it expressly against the will of Jehovah, and 
as the result of temptation by Satan. So we see that in this Bronze 
Age period, in which the Books of Samuel and Chronicles were writ- 
ten, there was a powerful anti-technical feeling. People felt very 
strongly that there was a great danger in letting the government come 
in and find out all about them. 

There is a great deal of foundation for such suspicion, and in the 
examination of history we see that one of the great bulwarks of liberty 
has always been— ineflEciency. The desire to be a tyrant has frequently 
existed, but the means for being tyrannical often have been extraor- 
dinarily inadequate. Tlie spirit of despotism was strong but the flesh 
was weak. Take the case of Louis XIV. Louis XIV proclaimed himself 

i68 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

an absolute monarch and would have liked to regiment everybody, but 
his technical armory was most inadequate, and it was quite easy for 
individuals to slip between the meshes of his widely woven net. Even 
in the time of Napoleon, one is struck by the inefficiency of his police 
chief, Fouchette, a man of enormous ability, with a highly-organized 

But compared with the efficiency of police forces even in the demo- 
cratic state today, these people were wildly inept. And there was a 
great deal of individual liberty, simply because the people on top 
couldn't get hold of the masses. 

These sporadic and preliminary efforts in what might be called 
technicizing governmental control have gone on all through history. 
For example, the Roman world was amazingly well-organized in many 
wa}"S. They technicized the military forces in a way they were not 
technicized again until the second half of the i8th Century. They had 
a technical and rational system of law such as we didn't see again until 
the time of Napoleon and the reform of English law during the 19th 
Century. But of course all of this disappeared, and during the Middle 
Ages we had an extraordinary anti-technical world in which organiza- 
tion was, so to speak— one doesn't like to use the word— but it was in a 
way, natural. Organizations developed, the guilds for example, which 
grew from the association of people doing the same sort of thing, 
without any kind of worked-out system. And it was all remarkably 

It had to be completely broken down at the time of the French 
Revolution in order to make possible the great development of tech- 
nology which followed. These, what may be called natural societies, 
had to be atomized, disintegrated so as to permit organization on the 
grand technical scale to take place. 

Today we see the application of technique to human aflFairs on a 
greater scale in all countries, and I would say that the really impor- 
tant distinction between the Communist world and the world of the 
West is not based on the Marxist theory that calls for public ownership 
of the means of production. This is a sort of mythology of the Soviet 
world. But the real difference is that the Communists are prepared to 
permit technicization to go to the absolute limit, while we have con- 
siderable qualms about allowing this thing to override our old 
traditions of personal liberty and democratic institutions. Marx and 
Engels gave extraordinary importance to the technical aspect of social 
organization; and what we see in Russia now is a world in which tech- 
nology is given free play, and in which man is more and more subor- 
dinated to the needs of technology. 

And one of the gravest dangers that confronts us is precisely this: 

The Final Revolution ( ( 169 

that we are being forced by technology along the same road which 
the Russians have voluntarily taken, but we are being pushed this way. 
Technology tends to grow and develop according to the laws of its 
own being. It doesn't at all develop according to the laws of our being. 
The two things are quite separate, and man now finds himself subor- 
dinated to this thing which he created, and subject to its laws, which 
are not at all human laws. 

We see this technicization going on in many, many fields. For 
example in the field of government, even in the liberal and democratic 
governments, it is quite clear that the whole apparatus of govern- 
ment is becoming more and more technicized. In this country there 
are, I believe, no less than fifty-six agencies of the government dealing 
with statistics alone; it has become necessary for us to have this 
immense armory of technical knowledge in order to permit the thing 
to run at all. Then there are the actual powers of the government that 
have been so immensely strengthened by the advances in technology. 
The police, for example, have powers which, as I stated, the police of 
Napoleon simply couldn't approach at all. It is not merely a question 
that they possess superior arms or they have means of communication 
which the older police forces did not possess. It is also a question that 
they have extremely elaborate methods of recording things. Everybody's 
position is recorded on punched cards, on microfilm and so on. 
This is an entirely new fact. There is an immense mass of information 
about everybody in the hands of the central government which never 
existed before. This thing for which David was punished has now 
reached an eminence which was absolutely unimaginable even 100 
years ago. 

This is only one of the fields in which we see the advance of tech- 
nique. We see it again in the economic field where, even in the 
Western countries, the old habit of leaving economy entirely to the 
free market is largely replaced by a most elaborate system of plans. 

Technicization is being even further accelerated by the enormously 
rapid increase in numbers. As the numbers increase, so do the prob- 
lems of organization. The great difficulties which arise as numbers 
press more and more heavily upon resources entail inevitably a much 
more intensive planning activity of the central government. And as 
numbers increase during the next fifty years, as they evidently will 
—we are now increasing at about forty-five millions a year on the 
planet— as this happens, I think we will see a further technicization, a 
further usurpation by the central authority of functions which used to 
be in the hands of private people. 

And now we com.e to the most interesting and possibly the most 
alarming aspect of this technicization of human life, which is tech- 

lyo ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

nique as applied to individuals, not merely to societies on the large 
scale, but to the individual, and this can be divided into various 

There is, first of all of course, the amazingly well-developed tech- 
nique, propaganda. Propaganda may be defined as opposed to rational 
argument, argument based upon facts. Argument based on facts aims 
at producing an intellectual conviction; propaganda aims, above all, at 
producing reflex action. It is aimed at bypassing the rational choice 
based upon knowledge of facts and getting directly at the solar plexus, 
so to speak, and affecting the subconscious. Tlie efficacy of propa- 
ganda was demonstrated on the most terrifying scale in Hitlerian 
Germany; it is demonstrated again in Communist dictatorship, and it 
is demonstrated in this country by the extreme effectiveness of 
commercial advertising. 

The technicization of the means of getting at the human uncon- 
scious presents an enormous danger to our whole traditional conception 
of democracy and of liberty. It seems to make complete nonsense of 
the democratic process, which, after all, is based upon the assumption 
that voters make rational choices on the basis of facts. And when one 
reads in a book like The Hidden Persuaders that in this country both 
political parties employ advertising agents to run the machinery of 
their campaigns, one is alarmed, and one wonders how long the 
democratic tradition can survive in the teeth of a technical method 
which is carefully rigged to bypass rational choice, and to affect 
people on a level below reason, on almost a physiological level. 

Then we see again technicization of persuasion as it is manifested in 
the processes of brainwashing, which is based very carefully on the 
work of Pavlov, and which is, as far as we can judge from the results 
achieved in China and among war prisoners in Korea, exceedingly 
eEcient, and probably going to become more and more efficient as 
time goes on. 

Finally we come to the question of attacking the human being on 
the physiological level, by pharmacological means. Here is where the 
present conference, I think, has to start thinking about what is going to 
happen with these drugs as they are developed. How are they going to 
be used? How are we going to be sure they will be used well? It seems 
to me perfectly in the cards that a euphoric drug far more efficient 
and less harmful than alcohol may be produced, and if this should be 
made available, and should be introduced into ever\^ bottle of Coca 
Cola, then clearly, as I ventured to point out more than t\A'enty-five 
years ago in Brave New World, this could become an incredibly 
powerful instrument in the hands of a dictator. What is becoming, I 
think, quite clear now is that the dictatorships of the future probably 

The Final Revolution ( ( 171 

will not be based on terror, as the dictatorships of the immediate past 
have been, the dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. Terror is an ex- 
tremely wasteful, stupid and inefficient method of controlling people. 
The Romans discovered this many years ago. As far as possible they 
tried to rule their empire by consent and not by mere coercion. And 
we are now in a position to do far better than the Romans, because we 
have this enormous armory of techniques which will permit the rulers 
to make their subjects actually like their slavery. In Brave New World 
the distribution of this mysterious drug, which I called Soma and 
whose name has now been taken by the Wallace Laboratories (for 
something not nearly as good, I might say), the distribution of this 
drug was a plank in the political platform— it was simultaneously one 
of the great instruments of power in the hands of the central authority, 
and at the same time it was one of the great privileges of the masses to 
be allowed to take this drug, because it made them so happy. This 
naturally was a fantasy, but it is a fantasy which now is a great deal 
nearer to being realized than I thought, than it was, certainly, at that 
time. And it seems to me perfectly in the cards that there will be 
within the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making 
people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, 
so to speak. Producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire 
societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away 
from them but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from 
any desire to rebel— by propaganda, brain washing, or brain washing 
enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to me to be 
The Final Revolution. 

In the past we have had revolutions which \^'ere all on the periphery 
of things. The environment was changed in the hope of changing the 
individual at the center of the environment. Today, thanks to the 
application of techniques to human beings, we are in a position to 
change the human being. So that the final revolution will concern the 
man and the woman as they are, and not the environment in which 
they live, and I can't see how one could go any further than the 
ultimate nature of this revolution. 

Now the question arises, what, if anything, can be done about this 
steady advance of technicization? Obviously, stopping it is out of the 
question. Technicization is going on whether we like it or not, and 
also it seems perfectly clear that without a steady increase of techni- 
cization in many fields it will be almost impossible to manage or 
provide a decent life for the rapidly increasing numbers of the human 
species. So that we have to put up with the fact that this technical 
process is going to go on, and is going to go on developing according 
to the la\^■s of its own being. It is going to be developed for the purpose 

lyz ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

of producing more and more efficiency, not necessarily for the 
purpose of producing fully developed human beings. That has nothing 
to do with it, nor have any questions of ethics got anything to do 
with it. The categorical imperative of technology is efficiency. 

The question is, can we resist this, can we make the best of both 
worlds? It's not a question, as I say, of hoping to abolish techniques. 
This is quite hopeless, I think. It is a question of somehow making the 
best of both worlds so that we can enjoy the results of technology, 
which are order and efficiency and profusion of goods, and at the same 
time enjoy what human beings have always held to be of supreme 
importance, that is to say, liberty and the possibility of spontaneity. 
This question of spontaneity is terribly important, and it is actually 
one of the great enemies of technique. A human being in a highly 
technicized productive unit is simply not allowed to be spontaneous. 
It just interferes with the plan laid down in advance by the engineers 
and technicians who decide how he should work, and in this way he, 
the human being, is profoundly diminished, because he is not per- 
mitted to be spontaneous. 

Our problem is to find some way of permitting this spontaneity to 
come to the surface, and allowing liberty to exist and yet allowing 
technique to develop to the limits to which it has to develop, and this 
is an incredibly difiicult problem. It is also a problem which is exceed- 
ingly urgent. 

When I wrote Brave New World in 1932, I imagined that this sort 
of world would come into existence about 500 years from now. But 
a number of forecasts made in that fantasy have come true within 
twenty-seven years, and it seems quite likely that a number more of 
these forecasts will come true within the next generation, so there isn't 
much time. The urgency is greatly increased by the enormous growth 
of population. When one reflects, for example, that countries like 
Mexico are going to have their populations doubled in the next twenty- 
four years, one sees we must start doing things at once. 

And I would think that the first step is to try to find out what is 
likely to happen. In the past we have let ourselves be taken by surprise 
by the development in technology. I don't think it was necessary. I 
don't think it was necessary that we should have been taken by surprise 
by the development of the factory system at the end of the 18th 
Century and the beginning of the 19th. If we had sat down, if our 
ancestors had sat down and tried to foresee what was going to happen, 
I don't think they would have had to subject millions of human beings 
to an absolutely infernal life, in what Blake called the dark, satanic 
mill of the period. If we had used a little imagination and a little good- 

The Final Revolution (( 173 

will at the time, I think we could have saved many millions of people 
from incalculable misery during two or three generations. 

And I don't think we have to let ourselves be taken by surprise 
again. I think we have a large mass of facts, and with a little imagina- 
tion, we can project these into the future, and we can see fairly clearly 
what is going to happen, what is likely to happen, provided we don't 
blow ourselves up in the interval. 

It seems to me it is exceedingly important for the hedgehogs, the 
specialists, to get into contact with the representatives of other, non- 
scientific specialities and with representatives of the ordinary lay 
public. And I can imagine a conference upon a much larger scale, not 
necessarily larger in numbers, but on a more variegated scale, than the 
conference going on here today. It would have representatives of vari- 
ous scientific disciplines meeting with representatives from govern- 
ment, from business, from the field of religion, sitting down and trying 
to imagine (A) what is likely to happen, and (B) what can be done to 
mitigate the results, which, if left to themselves, I think will be 
extremely dangerous and extremely undesirable, I think there must be 
such a conference, there must be a meeting of minds to try to work 
out some kind of educational policy, some kind of governmental 
policy, some kind of legal policy in relation to this enormous process 
of technicization, which has been going on for the last 100 years, 
which is continuing with mounting acceleration, and which is going 
to take us goodness knows where within the next fifty years. 

And I close, therefore, on this idea: that in such an institution as 
this, in the University of California, in the medical department or in 
one of the other departments, there should be a periodic conference 
of quite diflFerent types of people to think about these problems, 
and as I say, if possible, to work out some means by which we can 
make the best of both worlds. The best of the purely human world, 
and the best of this extraordinary, wonderful and terrifying world of 

Chapter 27 



Huxley lectured widely this year, at colleges on both coasts and 
at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka. His growing popularity 
as a lecturer can probably be attributed both to his unique and 
charming intelligence, and to his subject matter, of which 
Visionary Experience was only one compelling topic. Cancer was 
discovered but quickly destroyed by radium needle treatment. 
There was time for two psychedelic sessions: an LSD experiment 
in June, in which he contemplated the Hindu and Buddhist 
interpretations of love (attachment/ detachment— 'both kinds 
of nirvana"). Then, in November, he and Humphry Osmond 
journeyed to Cambridge where they met Dr. Timothy Leary 
and his colleagues who were then conducting large-scale experi- 
ments at Harvard (the Psychedelic Research Project). There 
Huxley took psilocybin for the first time, in a group consisting of 
■five other persons. 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 842] 

^2j6 Deronda Dr., 
L.A. 28, Gal. 
ij July, i960 
My Dear Humphry, 
Thank you for your good letter [....] 

Your work with imagers sounds very interesting. Have you any idea 
why some people visualize and others don't? I don't, except when my 
temperature touches 103°. Even LSD— at least in 100 fx doses— doesn't 
make me see things with my eyes shut. I took some LSD 3 or 4 weeks 
ago and had some interesting experiences of the way in which, as the 

Letters ( ( 175 

Indians say, the thought and the thinker and the thing thought about 
are one— and then of the way in which this unowned experience 
becomes something belonging to me; then no me any more and a kind 
of sat chit ananda, at one moment without karuna or charity (how odd 
that the Vedantists say nothing about Love, whereas the Mahayana 
Buddhists insist that unless prajnaparamita (the wisdom of the other 
shore) has karuna as the reverse of the medal, nirvana is, for the 
Bodhisattva, no better than hell). And in this experience with LSD, 
I had an inkling of both kinds of nirvana— the loveless being-con- 
sciousness-bliss, and the one with love and, above all, a sense that one 
can never love enough. 

I liked the things you said for Dr. Raynor Johnson's chapter on 
drugs and spiritual experience in his latest book.^ An interesting 
book— tho' perhaps he multiplies spiritual entities beyond what is 
strictly necessary. But perhaps Ockham's razor isn't a valid scientific 
principle. Perhaps entities sometimes ought to be multiplied beyond 
the point of the simplest possible explanation. For the world is 
doubtless far odder and more complex than we ordinarily think. 

I hope your administrative difficulties have been resolved and that 
you are now free to get on with something more interesting. I'm glad 
to hear that the Russians have picked up your [adrenochrome] work. 

Ever yours, 

^ Watcher on the Hills: A Study of Some Mystical Experiences of Ordinary 
People (London, 1959). 

Chapter 28 


The Art of Fiction 


As a subject in the Paris Review's celebrated series of interviews 
with great authors, Huxley was asked to comment on the rela- 
tionship between psychedelic drugs and the creative process, and 
on the value of the psychological insights the drugs afforded the 
fiction writer. 


Do you see any relation between the creative process and the use 
of such drugs as lysergic acid? 


I don't think there is any generalization one can make on this. 
Experience has shown that there's an enormous variation in the way 
people respond to lysergic acid. Some people probably could get direct 
aesthetic inspiration for painting or poetry out of it. Others I don't 
think could. For most people it's an extremely significant experience, 
and I suppose in an indirect way it could help the creative process. 
But I don't think one can sit down and say, "I want to write a 
magnificent poem, and so I'm going to take lysergic acid." I don't 
think it's by any means certain that you would get the result you 
wanted— you might get almost any result. 


Would the drug give more help to the lyric poet than the novelist? 

The Art of Fiction ( ( 177 


Well, the poet would certainly get an extraordinary view of life 
which he wouldn't have had in any other way, and this might help 
him a great deal. But, you see (and this is the most significant thing 
about the experience), during the experience you're really not interested 
in doing anything practical— even writing lyric poetry. If you were 
having a love affair with a woman, would you be interested in writing 
about it? Of course not. And during the experience you're not 
particularly in words, because the experience transcends words and is 
quite inexpressible in terms of words. So the whole notion of con- 
ceptualizing what is happening seems very silly. After the event, it 
seems to me quite possible that it might be of great assistance: people 
would see the universe around them in a very different way and would 
be inspired, possibly, to write something about it. 


But is there much carry-over from the experience? 


Well, there's always a complete memory of the experience. You 
remember something extraordinary having happened. And to some 
extent you can relive the experience, particularly the transformation 
of the outside world. You get hints of this, you sec the world in this 
transfigured way now and then— not to the same pitch of intensity, 
but something of the kind. It does help you to look at the world in 
a new way. And you come to understand very clearly the \vay that 
certain specially gifted people have seen the world. You are actually 
introduced into the kind of world that Van Gogh lived in, or the 
kind of world that Blake lived in. You begin to have a direct experience 
of this kind of world while you're under the drug, and afterwards you 
can remember and to some slight extent recapture this kind of world, 
which certain privileged people have moved in and out of, as Blake 
obviously did all the time. 


But the artist's talents won't be any different from what they were 
before he took the drug? 


I don't see why they should be different. Some experiments have 
been made to see what painters can do under the influence of the 
drug, but most of the examples I have seen are very uninteresting. 
You could never hope to reproduce to the full extent the quite in- 

lyS ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

credible intensity of color that you get under the influence of the drug. 
Most of the things I have seen are just rather tiresome bits of ex- 
pressionism, which correspond hardly at all, I would think, to the 
actual experience. Maybe an immensely gifted artist— someone like 
Odilon Redon (who probably saw the world like this all the time 
anyhow)— maybe such a man could profit by the lysergic acid ex- 
perience, could use his visions as models, could reproduce on canvas 
the external world as it is transfigured by the drug. 


Here this afternoon, as in your book. The Doors of Perception, you've 
been talking chiefly about the visual experience under the drug, and 
about painting. Is there any similar gain in psychological insight? 


Yes, I think there is. A\Tiile one is under the drug one has penetrating 
insights into the people around one, and also into one's own life. 
Many people get tremendous recalls of buried material. A process 
which may take six years of psychoanalysis happens in an hour— and 
considerably cheaper! And the experience can be very liberating and 
\\idening in other wa}S. It shows that the world one habitually lives 
in is merely a creation of this conventional, closely conditioned being 
which one is, and that there are quite other kinds of worlds outside. 
It's a very salutary thing to realize that the rather dull universe in 
which most of us spend most of our time is not the only universe 
there is. I think it's healthy that people should have this experience. 


Could such psychological insight be helpful to the fiction writer? 


I doubt it. After all, fiction is the fruit of sustained effort. The 
lysergic acid experience is a revelation of something outside of time 
and the social order. To write fiction, one needs a whole series of 
inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole 
lot of hard work on the basis of those inspirations. 


Is there any resemblance between lysergic acid, or mescalin, and 
the "soma" of your Brave New World? 


None whatever. Soma is an imaginary drug, with three different 

The Art of Fiction ( ( 179 

effects— euphoric, hallucinant, or sedative— an impossible combination. 
Mescalin is the active principle of the peyote cactus, which has been 
used for a long time by the Indians of the Southwest in their religious 
rites. It is now synthesized. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25) is 
a chemical compound with effects similar to mescalin; it was developed 
about twelve years ago, and it is only being used experimentally at 
present. Mescalin and lysergic acid transfigure the external world and 
in some cases produce visions. Most people have the sort of positive 
and enlightening experience I've described; but the visions may be 
infernal as well as celestial. These drugs are physiologically innocuous, 
except to people with liver damage. They leave most people \\'ith no 
hangover, and they are not habit-forming. Psychiatrists have found 
that, skillfully used, they can be very helpful in the treatment of 
certain kinds of neuroses. 


How did you happen to get involved in experiments with mescalin 
and lysergic acid? 


Well, I'd been interested in it for some years, and I had been in 
correspondence \\'ith Humphry Osmond, a very gifted young British 
psychiatrist working in Canada, When he started testing its effects 
on different kinds of people, I became one of his guinea pigs. I've 
described all this in The Doors of Perception. 

Chapter 29 


Mushrooms for Lunch 


Huxley and Osmond visited Dr. Timothy Leary at Harvard, 
where the Psychedelic Research Project had gotten underway. 
Here is Leary's account of his impressions of Pluxley upon the 
occasion of their first meetings in Cambridge. 

. . . George [Littwin] began to talk about the literature on visionary- 
states and asked me if 1 had read Aldous Huxley's books on mescaline, 
Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, and when I said I hadn't 
he rushed down the hall to his ofEce and brought them back. Small, 
thin rectangles. I stuck them in my jacket pockets. 

The final issue was the big one. Where would we get the mushrooms? 
Someone had told me that the Public Health Service had succeeded in 
synthesizing the mushrooms and I said I'd write to Washington and 
try to check on that lead. Gerhart [Braun] back in Mexico had told me 
that he'd continue the search for Juana the witch and if he found her 
he'd get a large supply and send some up to me. And Frank Barron 
back in Berkeley had told me that the people at the University' of 
Mexico had cultivated mushrooms and maybe we could get some from 

That night I read Huxley. And then I read those two books again. 
And again. It was all there. All my vision. And more too. Huxley had 
taken mescaline in a garden and shucked off the mind and awakened to 

About a week later someone at a party told me that Aldous Huxley 
was spending the fall in to\^n and that sounded like a good omen, so 
I sat down and wrote him a letter. 

Mushrooms for Lunch (( 181 

Two days later, during one of our planning conferences, Mr. Huxley 
telephoned to say he was interested and lunch was arranged. 

Aldous Huxley was staying in a new M.I.T. apartment overlooking the 
Charles River. He answered the bell— tall, pale, frail— joined me, and 
we drove to the Harvard Faculty Club. He read the menu slowly 
through his magnifying glass. I asked him if he wanted soup and he 
asked what kind and I looked at the menu and it was mushroom soup 
so we laughed and we had mushrooms for lunch. 

Aldous Huxley: stooped, towering, gray Buddha. A wise and good 
man. Head like a multi-lingual encyclopedia. Voice elegant and chuck- 
ling except when the pitch rose in momentary amused indignation about 
over-population or the pomposity of psychiatrists. 

We talked about how to study and use the consciousness-expanding 
drugs and we clicked along agreeably on the do's and the not-to-do's. 
We would avoid the behaviorist approach to others' awareness. Avoid 
labeling or depersonalizing the subject. We should not impose our own 
jargon or our own experimental games on others. We were not out to 
discover new laws, which is to say, to discover the redundant implica- 
tions of our own premises. We ^^'ere not to be limited by the pathologi- 
cal point of view. We were not to interpret ecstasy as mania, or calm 
serenity as catatonia; we were not to diagnose Buddha as a detached 
schizoid; nor Christ as an exhibitionistic masochist; nor the mystic 
experience as a symptom; nor the visionary state as a model psychosis. 
Aldous Huxley chuckling away with compassionate humor at human 

And with such erudition! Moving back and forth in histor\', quoting 
the mystics. Words^^'orth. Plotinus. The Areopagite. William James. 
Ranging from the esoteric past, back to the biochemical present: Hum- 
phry Osmond curing alcoholics in Saskatchewan with LSD; Keith 
Ditman's plans to clean out Skid Ro\\' in Los Angeles with LSD; Roger 
Heim taking his bag of Mexican mushrooms to the Parisian chemists 
who couldn't isolate the active ingredient, and then going to Albert 
Hofmann the great Swiss, who did it and called it psilocybin. The)- had 
sent the pills back to the curandera in Oaxaca state and she tried them 
and had divinatory visions and \\as happy that her practice could now 
be year-round and not restricted to the three rainy mushroom months. 

Aldous Huxley was shrewdly aware of the political complications and 
the expected opposition from the Murugans, the name he gave to 
power people in his novel, Island. 

"Dope . . . Aiurugan was telling me about the fungi that are used 
here as a source of dope." 

"What's in a name? . . . Answer, practically everything. Murugan 
calls it dope and feels about it all the disapproval that, by conditioned 

i82 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

reflex, the dirty word evokes. We on the contrary ^ give the stuff good 
names— the mokslia medicine, the reality revealer, the truth-and- 
beauty pill. And we know, by direct experience, that the good names are 
deserved. Whereas our young friend here has no firsthand knowledge of 
the stuff and can't be persuaded even to give it a try. For him it's dope 
and dope is something that, by definition, no decent person ever in- 
dulges in." 

Aldous Huxley advised and counseled and joked and told stories and 
we listened and our research project was shaped accordingly. Huxley 
offered to sit in on our planning meetings and was ready to take 
mushrooms with us when the research was under way. 

From these meetings grew the design for a naturalistic pilot study, 
in which the subjects would be treated like astronauts— carefully pre- 
pared, briefed with all available facts, and then expected to run their 
own spacecraft, make their own observations, and report back to ground 
control. Our subjects \^'ere not passive patients but hero-explorers. 

During the weeks of October and November of i960 there were 
many meetings to plan the research. Aldous Huxley would come and 
listen and then close his eyes and detach himself from the scene and 
go into his controlled meditation trance, which was unnerving to some 
of the Harvard people who equate consciousness with talk, and then he 
would open his eyes and make a diamond-pure comment. . . . 

Chapter 30 


Harvard Session Report 

Huxley and Osmond visited Dr. Timothy Leary at Harvard 
where the Psychedelic Research Project had gotten underway. 
The following report of a psilocybin session from unpublished 
laboratory notes exhibits the methodology of the Harvard re- 
searchers, and reveals Huxley as a semi-anonymous subject in a 
group experiment. 

date: Sunday, Nov. 6, i960. 


At this session the remaining members of the research group 
were exposed to the psilocybin experience. The session began 
at noon on Sunday and lasted until 8 p.m. The scene was, 
as in the preceding, the large and comfortable home of the 
principal investigator. 


*i, 4: from previous sessions. 

#11: Mr. Aldous Huxley. 

#12: 20-year-old woman, wife of #3. She is worrying, rather 
immature girl who had built up extravagant expecta- 
tions (and fears) about participating with older and 
more distinguished persons whom she respected. 

#13: A brilliant graduate student in psychology, age 27, a 
tense, energetic person who had been in a state of 
anticipatory panic for two wrecks before the experience. 

#14: A college graduate of 25, the wife of #6 who had been 
peripherally involved in visionary matters since her 

184 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

husband had been involved in mescaline research the 
preceding year. 


# 1 took 10 mg at the start and followed it by 10 mg additional 
after 40 minutes. 

#4, same dosage as above. 

#11, took 10 mg at beginning and no more. 

#12, same dosage as #1 and #4; this was clearly an over-dose. 
This person (110 libs.) had an intestinal disorder the pre- 
ceding day, was menstruating and was in addition not as 
resilient and "strong" emotionally as any preceding par- 

#13, same dosage as #1, 4 and 12, totaling 20 mg. 

#14, same dosage as above. 


#1 experienced the classic phenomena, visual intensification, 
vedantic calm, philosophic unifying experiences centering 
around the issues raised by the group activity— i.e., center- 
ing around domesticity and duty. This participant was forced 
to take over executive activities during six of the eight hours 
and was able to function more successfully than usual in 
handling routine social decisions which arose; claimed lasting 
insights into ethical and philosophic matters. 

#4 sat calmly for five hours, euphoric, closely observing and 
empathizing with events around her; was able to exert almost 
complete control in spite of 20 mg dosage. 

#11 sat in contemplative calm throughout; occasionally 
produced relevant epigrams; reported experience as an edify- 
ing philosophic experience, 

#12 silly euphoria; felt rather isolated because other partici- 
pants were sitting quietly in meditation; after additional 
10 mg became depressed, wept, focused on personal prob- 
lems; while experience was painful she brought to the surface 
problems which she has subsequently been able to deal 
with and think through. 

[remainder of report missing] 

Chapter 31 



In May of this year a brushflre completely destroyed the Huxleys' 
Deronda Drive house, including his ^ooo-volume library and all 
of his manuscripts with the exception of the nearly-completed 
Island, which he rescued from the flames and finished a few 
weeks later. "Ifs odd to be starting from scratch at my age," he 
wrote regarding the fire. He delivered three major lectures in 
2961: at a conference on mind control in San Francisco, at the 
annual parapsychology conference in France, and at an interna- 
tional conference for applied psychology in Denmark. He gave 
his longest interview— covering two entire afternoons— to a BBC 
commentator in London. He met with Dr. Albert Hofmann in 
Switzerland, and journeyed to India for the first time since the 

His letters to Dr. Timothy Leary display his continuing interest 
in visionary art, as well as "the hopelessness of the scientific 
(e.g., Pavlovian) approach" which views changed behavior 
negatively. His often expressed caution against dramatizing or 
glamorizing psychedelic drugs in the mass media is reiterated in a 
letter to Osmond. 

i86 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 


32^6 Deronda Drivey 
Los Angeles 28, Calif. 
6 February, 1961 
Dear Tim, 

Thank you for your letter of Jan. 23rd, which came during my 
absence— first in Hawaii, then at San Francisco (where we had a good 
conference on Control of the Mind. 

Alas, I can't write anything for Harpers— am too desperately busy 
trying to finish a book. 

At S. F. I met Dr. [Oscar] Janiger, whom I had not seen for several 
years. He tells me that he has given LSD to 100 painters who have 
done pictures before, during & after the drug, & whose efforts are 
being appraised by a panel of art critics. This might be interesting. 
I gave him your address, & I think you will hear from him. 

I also spoke briefly with Dr. Joly West (prof, of psychiatry at U. of 
Oklahoma Medical School), who told me that he had done a lot 
of work in sensory deprivation, using improved versions of John Lilly's 
techniques. Interesting visionary results— but I didn't have time to 
hear the details. 

You are right about the hopelessness of the "scientific" approach. 
Those idiots want to be Pavlovians not Lorenzian Ethnologists. Pavlov 
never saw an animal in its natural state, only under duress. The 
"scientific" LSD boys do the same with their subjects. No wonder 
they report psychoses. 


1 Director of the Psychedelic Research Project at Harvard, 1960-63. Not in 

Letters ( ( 187 

TO DR. TIMOTHY LEAKY [smith 861 

The Plaza, 
Fifth Avenue at ^gth Street, New York 
13 April, 1961 
Dear Tim, 

Next time you arc in New York, go and see the Max Ernst show at the 
Museum of Modem Art. Some of the pictures are wonderful examples 
of the world as seen from the vantage point of LSD or mushrooms. 
Ernst sees in a visionary way and is also a first-rate artist capable of 
expressing what he sees in paintings which are about as adequate to 
the visionary facts as any I know. It might be interesting to get in 
touch with him, find out what his normal state is, and then give him 
mushrooms or LSD and get him to compare his normal experiences 
with his drug-induced ones. His combination of psychological idio- 
syncrasy and enormous talent makes him a uniquely valuable case. 


Chapter 32 


London Interview 


During a summer in London Huxley granted his longest interview 
(it covered two entire afternoons) to John Chandos. Portions of 
it are quoted in Bedford, including the following extracts pertain- 
ing to psychedelic drugs. 

''How often have you taken mescalin?" 

"I've taken mescalin twice, and LSD about five times, I suppose." ^ 

"Is the effect the same on everyone?'' 

"It varies. On the whole, no. Statistically about 70% get a good and 
positive and happy result from it, a certain percentage get no results, 
and a certain percentage get very unpleasant and hell-like results out 
of it. They get very frightened." 

"And what were yours?" 

"Mine were always positive . . ." 

''How long does the effect last?" 

"Eight hours." 

"During this time, do you just sit, or do you move about?" 

"You move about if you want to . . . You spend a lot of time sitting 
quietly looking at things— getting some of these strange metaphysical 
insights into the world. . . ." 

"Is it a habit-forming drug?" 

"No, no, absolutely not. . . . Most people I know haven't any special 

1 Huxley had meant to say he had taken mescalin four times and LSD three times. 
Subsequently he took LSD another time and psilocybin twice, for a total of 10 
(documented) psychedelic doses in a decade — virtually the same figure given by 
L. Huxley and S. Bedford. 

London Interview ( ( 189 

desire to go on taking it. They would like to take it every six months 

or every year or something of this kind. . . ." 
**Is it not a condition one wants to he in, or continue to be in?" 
"You couldn't be in it all the time. . . . The world becomes so 

extraordinary and so absorbing that you can't cross the street without 

considerable risk of being run over. . . ." 
"But if this vision is so valuable, doesn't one want to goon . . . ?" 
"Well, I would like to take it about once a year. Most people . . . 

who have taken it have no desire to sort of fool with it constantly. . , . 

You take it too seriously to behave in this way towards it. You don't 

want to \A'allow in it." 

"Would it be wallowing if it opened up a life . . . .?" 
"Well, you need a good deal of time to digest this, I think. . . ." 

Letters (( 187 

TO DR. TIMOTHY LEAKY [smith 861] 

The Plaza, 
Fifth Avenue at ^gth Street, New York 
13 April, 1961 
Dear Tim, 

Next time ) ou are in New York, go and see the Max Ernst show at the 
Museum of Modern Art. Some of the pictures are wonderful examples 
of the world as seen from the vantage point of LSD or mushrooms. 
Ernst sees in a visionary way and is also a first-rate artist capable of 
expressing what he sees in paintings which are about as adequate to 
the visionary facts as any I know. It might be interesting to get in 
touch with him, find out what his normal state is, and then give him 
mushrooms or LSD and get him to compare his normal experiences 
with his drug-induced ones. His combination of psychological idio- 
syncrasy and enormous talent makes him a uniquely valuable case. 


Chapter 33 


Visionary Experience 


The following lecture, delivered to an international gathering of 
psychologists, is perhaps the most systematic of the many talks 
Huxley gave on this subject. The question, ''Why are precious 
stones precious?" came to function as a Zen koan whenever he 
lectured on this subject. He covers methods of access to the Vi- 
sionary World, the characteristics of the experience, and its value 
in religion, folklore, and the arts. His remarks on chemical access 
now include reference to the recent synthesis of psilocybin. A 
similar address given by Huxley in the fall of i960 at M.I.T. is 
placed in the appendix, for readers interested in textual variations, 
or in more substantial references to visionary poets and mes- 
calin researchers. 

Mr. chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I feel a little dubious about be- 
ing here in a group of distinguished scientists. However, I console 
myself by the thought that the people in my profession have been 
occupied with the problems of psychology for three or four thousand 
years before your profession was invented. You have, of course, sys- 
tematized what people in the literary field have seen in a rather vague 
and intuitive and spasmodic way, and of course we in our turn can 
learn a great deal from you. 

My excuse for being here, really, can be summed up in the phrase of 
Alexander Pope that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Amid 
so many academic angels who are of course completely inhibited by 
their surroundings, by their intellectual vested interests, by their 
Ph.D.'s, it is very important, I think, that there should break in, every 

Visionary Experience ( ( 191 

now and then, a literary fool who is not inhibited in any of these ways 
and who does start ranging about over this immense field and is not 
afraid of making a fool of himself, or of getting into some kind of 
academic trouble. I think that in spite of the fact that the literary 
man cannot contribute anything of solid scientific interest, he may 
nevertheless be of some value inasmuch as he does explore areas of this 
fantastic universe of the human mind, which the more cautious aca- 
demic psychologist is rather nervous of getting into. And with this 
brief introduction let me get on to this fascinating subject of Visionary 


Well, I shall begin by asking one of those questions which children 
ask of their parents and which leaves them completely stumped— a 
question like Why is grass green? This question is: \Vhy are precious 
stones precious? It is very peculiar, when you think of the subject: 
Why should human beings have spent an immense amount of time, 
energy and money in collecting coloured pebbles? There is no con- 
ceivable economic value in this and they are rather pretty in their way, 
but it seems very strange that this enormous amount of energy should 
have been put forth on the collection of precious stones, and also that 
such an immense mythology and folklore, as has arisen and has been 
crystallized around precious stones, should have ever come into exis- 

Why should precious stones have always been regarded as extremely 
precious? W'ell, this question was asked some fifty years ago by the 
distinguished American philosopher, George Santayana, and he came 
up with this answer. He said, I think, that they are precious because, 
of all objects in this world of transience, this world of perpetual perish- 
ing, they seem to be the nearest to absolute permanence; they give us, 
so to say, a kind of visible image of eternity or unchangeableness. Well, 
I think there is something in this answer, but I don't think it is by any 
means the whole answer to our problem. It is important because it 
seems to go back to some deep psychological factor in the mind, but 
I don't think it goes back far enough; I don't think it goes to the most 
important psychological factor, which determines the preciousness of 
precious stones. And here I shall quote from another philosopher of 
antiquity, Plotinus, the great neoplatonic philosopher, who in a very 
interesting and profoundly significant passage says, "In the intelligible 
world, which is the world of platonic ideas, everything shines; con- 
sequently, the most beautiful thing in our world is fire." 

This remark is significant in several ways. First of all, it interests me 

192 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

profoundly as showing that a great metaphysical structure, the platonic 
and ncoplatonic structure, was essentially built up on a quasi-sensory 
experience. The world of Ideas shines, it is a world which can be seen; 
and this curious fact that the ideal world can actually be seen, can be 
discovered also in Plato himself. In the Fhaedo, Socrates speaks about 
the posthumous world to which good men go after they are dead, and 
it is rather difficult from the dialogue itself to make out whether this 
is simply a paradise world, or whether it is also in a sense the world of 
Ideas. But anyhow, what Socrates says about this world— which he 
calls the other earth— is again that in this other earth everything 
shines, that the very stones of the road and on the mountains have the 
quality of precious stones; and he ends up by saying that the precious 
stones of our earth, our highly valued emeralds, rubies, and so on, are 
but infinitesimal fragments of the stones which are to be seen in this 
other earth; and this other earth, where everything is brighter and 
clearer and more real than in our world is, he says, a vision of blessed 
beholders. Well, here again is another indication that a great meta- 
physical idea, the platonic Idea, the platonic system of an ideal world, 
is also based upon a world of vision. It is a vision of blessed beholders, 
and I think we now begin to see why precious stones are precious: 
they are precious because in some way they remind us of something 
which is already there in our minds. They remind us of this paradisal, 
more-than-real world which sometimes is glimpsed consciously by some 
people and which I think most people have had slight glimpses of, and 
which we are all, in some obscure way, aware of on an unconscious 
level. And as Plotinus says, it is because of the existence of this other 
world, this luminous other world, that the most beautiful thing on 
earth is fire. 

Now it is an interesting fact that we will speak about diamonds hav- 
ing fire, that the most precious, most valuable diamonds are those with 
the greatest amount of fire, and the whole art of cutting diamonds is of 
course the art of making them as brilliant as possible and making them 
show off the greatest amount of fire within. And indeed it can be said 
that all precious stones are in a sense crystalKzed fire. It is very signifi- 
cant in this context that we find in the Book of Ezekiel, when he 
is describing the Garden of Eden, he says it is full of stones of fire— 
which are simply precious stones— so that we see, I think quite defi- 
nitely, that the reason why precious stones are precious is precisely 
this, that they remind us of this strange other world at the back of our 
heads to which some people can obtain access, and to which some 
people are given access spontaneously. 

Visionary Experience ( ( 193 


Spontaneous Access • Before I go on to talk about the actual nature of 
this internal visionary world, let me say a little about the means of 
access to that world. Some people spontaneously go there; they seem to 
be able to move back and forth without any difficulty between the 
visionary world and the workaday, biologically useful world of our 
ordinary experience. You get people, for example, like William Blake, 
who is constantly moving back and forth between the two worlds. Blake 
had a period in middle life when he was unable to visit the visionary- 
world. For about twenty years he didn't see it. He used to see it in his 
youth, and then again in his old age he was able to go into it quite 
freely. And we have, I think, plenty of cases of poets and artists who 
have gone back and forth from one world to another. There are very 
beautiful and very detailed descriptions of the visionary world given to 
the Irish poet, George Russell— who wrote under the name of A.E.— 
where he describes his own experiences of going back and forth into 
this luminous world within the mind. 

There are these spontaneous cases where a privileged few are able 
to visit the other world and come back again safe and sound. Then I 
think we can also say that, in a very large number of children— I don't 
know what the proportion is; I don't think it has ever been systemati- 
cally investigated— but in a good number of children, there is this 
capacity to live in a kind of visionary world. They see both within and 
without this transfigured luminous world. It is of course the world 
described by Wordsworth in his famous Ode on the Intimations of 
Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. I think a great 
many children have exactly the kind of intimations of immortality 
which Wordsworth described. Then in due course, as they are sub- 
jected to our system of analytical and conceptual education, they lose 
the capacity of seeing this other world which gradually, in Words- 
worth's words, "fades into the light of common day." From having 
hved in a world which had "the glory and the freshness of a dream," 
they return to this rather boring, rather drab world in which most of 
us pass our lives. I would say, in passing, that one of the major prob- 
lems of education is how do we help children to make the best of botli 
worlds? How do we help them to make the best of the world of pri- 
mary experience (and of this extension of primary experience: vision- 
ary experience) and at the same time help them to make the best of 
the world of language and the best of the world of concepts and gen- 
eral ideas? At present our system of education seems almost a guarantee 

194 ) ) ^^^^ ^ I Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

that while we teach them how to use words and concepts, we wipe out 
this other world of beauty and higher reality which so many children 
live in. 

These are two cases of spontaneous awareness of the other world, 
of the visionary world. Another class of people who have this awareness 
spontaneously is the class of the dying. Readers of Tolstoy will remem- 
ber in that extraordinary story The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, that at the 
end of his unutterable sufferings and miseries, this wretched man feels 
that he is being pushed into a black sack, deeper and deeper, and sud- 
denly, within a few hours before he dies, he perceives that the bottom 
of the sack is open and at the end of it is a light. 

This is not merely a literary invention. In recent months Dr. Karlis 
Osis,^ of the Parapsychology Foundation of New York, has been send- 
ing out questionnaires to a large number of doctors and nurses getting 
them to give reports of the state of mind of patients on their deathbed. 
The interesting thing is that he has, I think, about 800 answers from 
doctors and nurses who report that, spontaneously, patients on the 
verge of death did have these tremendous visionary experiences of 
light, of luminous figures. It is a most interesting fact to find that this 
phenomenon, which has been reported of course in literature in the 
past, is now statistically confirmed. This is one of the most fascinating 
things that professional psychologists are doing now. They are confirm- 
ing, by questionnaires and in the laboratory, all kinds of things which 
were intuitively known, and known by observation, and recorded in a 
casual way by literary men and philosophers in the past. 

Well, as I say, this represents a third class of spontaneous cases. Now 
we have to go on to the induced cases. 

Induced Access • The fact that visionary experience has always, at all 
times and every'where been very highly valued, means that at all times 
and in all cultures systematic efforts have been made to induce this 

The experience can be induced in a variety of ways. Let us quickly 
go through a few of them. 

One method is hypnosis. Under deep hypnosis a certain number of 
people (not very many, but I have seen a few) do evidently enter this 
world and report very strange and interesting happenings: they see 
figures, they see luminous landscapes, and so on. These are not very 

^ Karlis Osis, Deathbed Obsenations by Physicians and Nurses. "Parapsycho- 
logical Monographs," No. 3. N.Y.: Parapsychology Foundation, Inc. 1961. (Con- 
densed in International Journal of Parapsychology (N.Y.), Vol. 4, No. 2, Spring, 
1962, pp. 27-56. See also Duncan Blewett, "Psychedelic Drugs in Parapsychologi- 
cal Research," ibid., Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter, 1963, pp. 43-74.) 

Visionary Experience ( ( 195 

common phenomena, but it is interesting to know that there are a 
certain number of people who can be transported into this other world 
by hypnosis. 

There are other psychological methods for getting into the other 
world, and one of the best known in the Orient of course is the method 
of one-pointed concentration, the traditional Yoga method of exclud- 
ing everything except one particular point on which the attention is 
concentrated. This in many cases does seem to result in breaking 
through the barrier surrounding our ordinary, day-to-day, biologically 
utilitarian world of consciousness, and breaking through into another 
mode of consciousness, the visionary mode. There is yet another 
method which has been practised, of course, within all the great reli- 
gious traditions, the method of what is now called sensory deprivation, 
or the limited environment. Here again it is most interesting to find 
professional psychologists repeating, in the laboratorj/, work which 
was done for metaphysical and religious reasons by hermits and saints 
living in caves in the mountains or in the desert. It is a very extraordi- 
nary fact that when we do limit the number of external stimuli or cut 
them out altogether, as can be done with some difficulty, then in a 
relatively short time the mind starts producing tremendous visionary 
experiences. Historically we see such figures as Saint Anthony and the 
monks of the Thebaid in the fourth century in the Egyption desert, 
and we see again the hermits of the Himalayas, the Tibetan and the 
Hindu hermits who lived in complete isolation in the caves. For ex- 
ample, if you read the life of Milarepa, the great Tibetan hermit, or 
if you read the lives of St. Anthony and St. Paul, the hermit in the 
Christian tradition, you can see that this isolation did in fact produce 
visionary experiences. And it is interesting, as I say, to see these facts 
confirmed by such contemporary workers as D. O. Hebb at McGill 
in Canada, or my friend Dr. John Lilly at the National Institute of 
Health in Washington. Lilly has probably gone further than anyone 
else in creating a limited environment. He immerses himself in a bath 
at the temperature of 96, has himself fastened into a harness so that he 
can hardly move, breathes only through a snorkel so that even his face 
is covered with water and there is no differentiation of sensation on 
any part of his body, and within three or four hours he is having tre- 
mendous visionary experiences. Now the interesting thing is that like 
St. Anthony's, most of these visionary experiences are extraordinarily 
unpleasant, and I have asked Dr. Lilly to describe these experiences 
but he would never tell me exactly what they were, except that they 
were very, very unpleasant indeed. St. Anthony, as anybody who has 
ever visited any picture gallery knows, was also subjected to extremely 
unpleasant experiences, but he occasionally evidently had genuine 

196 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

mystical and divine experiences. It is interesting too that, in all the 
religious traditions, deserts and places where there is a minimum of 
sensory stimulation have always been regarded in an ambivalent way, 
first of all as the places where God is nearest and secondly as the place 
where devils abound. We find in the New Testament, for example, 
that the devils who are cast out by Jesus go into the desert because 
this is the natural place, the habitat, of devils. But again, hermits who 
lived in the deserts in the fourth century say they went there because 
this is the place where one can get nearer to God than anywhere else. 
As I say, it is extremely interesting to find that these ancient religious 
practices can be and have been confirmed in the laboratory of modem 
psychological workers. 

Another method of getting into the other world is the method of 
systematic breathing. Breathing exercises were of course developed 
most systematically in India, and we find traces of them in the West- 
ern tradition, particularly in the Greek Orthodox Church tradition 
where people did evidently employ some breathing methods, and even 
in individual Western mystics. I am thinking of Father Surin, the 
French seventeenth-century Jesuit, who speaks about the different 
modes of breathing, though he doesn't exactly describe what they were. 
The significant fact about breathing is that I think one can say that 
all these elaborate breathing exercises tend to end up in prolonged 
suspensions of breath. A prolonged suspension of breath necessarily 
means a growing concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood. Again, 
it is well known that high concentrations of carbon dioxide do produce 
very remarkable and startling visionary experiences in the mind, so 
that we see here, in an empirical way, that people in all the religious 
traditions of the past made use of methods for changing the body 
chemistry, in such a way that visionary experiences would become 
facilitated. This again is the physiological reason, not the metaphysical 
or the ethical reason, for such practices as fasting. 

Fasting has been employed in virtually all the cultural traditions, 
among other things for the purpose of inducing visions. For example, 
in a primitive Indian society in America this was a regular part of the 
initiation of the adolescent young men. They went out into the forest 
or into the prairie and fasted until they got a vision of the god they 
were looking for, and in due course they alwa\'s did get a vision. The 
methods of fasting of course have been used in every religious tradi- 
tion. These psychological effects of fasting have been confirmed in 
the large study by Keys called The Biology of Human Starvation.^ 

^Ancel Keys, et al., The Biology of Human Starvation. Minneapolis: Univ. of 
Minnesota Press, 1950. 

Visionar)^ Experience ( ( 197 

There is a most elaborate description of what happens after a long 
period of abstention from food, and among the things that happen are 
these visionary experiences. We know too that the inadequate amounts 
of vitamins as well as merely inadequate amounts of calories also pro- 
duce profound psychological changes. Tliere are profound psychological 
changes in pellagra, for example, and in beriberi. Here again it is inter- 
esting, with the knowledge that we now have, to look back over history 
and to see why a period like the Middle Ages was probably far more 
fruitful in vision than a period of the present time. Tlie reason very 
simply is that we are simply stuffed with vitamins and they were not. 
After all, every winter in the Middle Ages there was a period of ex- 
treme vitamin deficiency: pellagra and the other deficiency diseases 
were very common. On top of a long period of involuntary fasting 
came the forty days of Lent where voluntary fasting was imposed upon 
involuntary fasting, so that by the time Easter came around, the mind 
was completely ready for any kind of vision. I think there is no doubt 
that this is one of the reasons why spontaneous visionary experiences 
are a good deal less common now than they were; it is simply a dietary 
factor. In the past, in earlier civilization, a rather deficient diet tended 
to make certain types of visionary experiences possible, whereas now 
our very full diet tends to block them off. 

Among other methods of transporting the mind to the other world 
was the deprivation of sleep. You find this in all the religious tradi- 
tions: the sleep is reduced and the mind is made open and ripe for 
visionary experience. Here again it is interesting to see the professional 
psychologist confirming the findings of the past. My friend Dr. J. West 
a year or two ago had the occasion to supervise the sleeplessness period 
of a man who was a disc jockey on an American radio station. For a 
bet he had resolved to go without sleep for I forget how many days, 
ten or twelve days. Dr. West supervised this and he told me that it was 
very interesting, after about seven or eight days, how this man was 
living in a completely visionary world with brcakings-in of every kind 
of strange visions, some horrible and some rather beautiful. So here 
again we see an interesting confirmation of old empirical findings, in 
the modern laboratory. 

Even the medieval habit of austerities or self-imposed punishment 
was probably also extremely conducive to visions. Self-flagellation, for 
example: if you analyse what the effects of this sort of proceeding 
were, it is quite clear that they all made for visionary experiences. 
They first of all released a great deal of adrenalin, a great deal of hista- 
mine, both of which have very strange effects on the mind, and then 
in the Middle Ages, when neither soaps nor antiseptics existed, any 
wound which could fester, did fester, and the breakdown products of 

198 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

protein got into the bloodstream. We also know that these things do 
have vei}- strange and interesting psychological effects. In confirmation 
of this it is very curious to read of the remark by the great French 
nineteenth-century Cure d'Ars (and now canonized as Saint Jean 
Vianney) who was forbidden by his bishop to indulge in the extremely 
severe austerities, the self-beatings which he had practised as a young 
man, and he said nostalgically, "When I ^^'as allowed to do what I 
liked with my body, God would refuse me nothing." This is a very 
interesting psychological statement, that evidently there are psycho- 
logical reactions on the biochemical level which, connected with this 
kind of self-torture, do tend towards the production of visions. 

Chemical Access • Let us now pass into a final class of vision-inducing 
procedures; these have to do with the ingestion of various chemicals. 
Now as the French anthropologist Philippe de Felice showed some 
twenty years ago in his book Poisons Sacres, Ivresses Divines,^ virtually 
in every religious tradition, both civilized and primitive, use has been 
made of mind-changing drugs used for the purposes of inducing vision- 
ar\' experiences. Every kind of chemical substance has been used for this 
purpose. The most anciently recorded, I suppose, is the soma of the 
Indians. Nobody knows, I think, what the plant soma was. It has been 
identified as the Asclepias or milkweed, but the description in the sacred 
text don't seem to fit in with the milkweed identification. From the an- 
cient text it seems that this was a creeping plant which the Aryan in- 
vaders of India in 1,000 B.C. brought down with them from Central 
Asia, and it became more and more difficult to get hold of the plant as 
they penetrated further and further into India. Philippe de Felice has a 
very interesting hypothesis that the development of Yoga (which evi- 
dently took place about this time, although it may have started earlier 
with the pre-Aryan people in India). The taking over of Yoga by the 
Arjan invaders may have been forced upon them b) the fact that it was 
impossible for them to obtain supplies of soma so that, as they couldn't 
induce visions by biochemical means, they were forced to resort to 
purely psychological and breathing exercises to get to the same place. 
It is an interesting hypothesis which may perhaps be true. I don't 
know. Then among the other drugs, which of course have been used 
in the past, are such extremely dangerous mind-changing drugs as 
opium and as coca, from which cocaine is derived, and such relatively 
dangerous drugs as hashish— and, after all, our dear old friend alcohol, 
which was used by the Greeks, later by the Persiaiis, and used by the 

^ Philippe de Felice, Poisons Sacres, Ivresses Divines. Essai sur quelques formes 
infcrieures de la mystique (Paris, 1936). 

Visionary Experience ( ( 199 

Celts in Europe as a mind-changing drug and worshipped as a god. 
This is the interesting thing: the substance which produces the change 
of mind is regarded as divine and is then hypostatised as a person 
projected into the external universe as a divine person. We get the 
same phenomenon in Central America where recently the archaeolo- 
gists have dug up in the highlands of Guatemala a large number of 
small stone figures which represent mushrooms out of whose stem 
emerges the head of a god. It is a very significant fact that this mind- 
changing mushroom which, as we shall see in a moment, has now 
entered European life, was actually hypostatised as a diety. 

The Mushroom Access • Among the more harmless mind-changing 
drugs used by people in their religious rites in the past are peyote, the 
Mexican cactus, which is used in the Southwestern states of America 
and over large parts of Mexico, then the banisterio [Bannisteriopsis 
caapi] of South America, and now of course the Mexican mushroom. 

In modern times pharmacology has produced, partly by more refined 
methods of extraction and partly by methods of synthesis, a number 
of mind-changing drugs of extraordinary power, but remarkable for 
the fact that they have very little harmful effect upon the body. Peyote, 
among the natural drugs, has almost no harmful effect upon the body; 
it is not addictive, and Indians 80 years old take no more of the drug 
than they did when they were young, nor do they feel any desire to 
take it more frequently than once every month or six weeks when the 
religious rites take place. The extract from peyote which is the active 
principle, and which is now synthesized, mescaline, has the same 
qualities. Among the more recent additions to the armamentarium of 
the pharmacologists, the psychopharmacologists, are LSD-25 (lysergic 
acid diethylamide) which was synthesized by Dr. Albert Hofmann of 
Basel in 1943, and more recently psilocybin (about which we shall hear 
tonight, I hope, from Dr. Leary) which was synthesized I think not 
more than 2 or 3 years ago, also by Dr. Hofmann, who began by 
extracting the active principles of the Mexican mushroom which had 
been brought back by Professor Heim from his expedition to Mexico 
with Mr. Gordon Wasson."* I recently had the interesting experience of 

^ Roger Heim and R. Gordon Wasson, Les Champignons Hallucinogenes du 
Mexique: Etudes Ethnologiques, Taxinomiques, Biologiques, Physiologiques et 
Chimiques. With the collaboration of Albert Hofmann, Roger Cailleux, A. Cerletti, 
Arthur Brack, Hans Kobel, Jean Delay, Pierre Pichot, Th. Lemperiere, and J. 
Nicolas-Charles. {Archives du Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 1958. Series 
7, Vol. VI.) (Paris, 1959). The Curandera was Maria Sabina. 

200 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

reading a letter which Professor Heim had written to my brother and 
which said, "I have just come back from Mexico and as a great triumph I 
took with me a number of Hofmann's capsules of psilocybin and I gave 
a dose to the old lady— the curandera, the medicine woman— with 
whom we had originally done our experiments with the mushrooms— 
and she was quite delighted because the effects were exactly the same 
as the mushrooms and she said, ''Now I can do my magic all the year 
round, I don't have to wait for the mushroom season!" So this per- 
haps is one of the great triumphs of modern science, that one of these 
days perhaps Professor Hofmann at Basel will receive a telegram say- 
ing, "Please airmail one hundred caspules to Southern Mexico, have 
very important magic to perform next week"— and the capsules will 
go and the magic will be performed. 

These biochemical methods are, I suppose, the most powerful and 
the most foolproof, so to say, of all the methods for transporting us 
to this other world that at present exist. I think, as Professor Leary 
will point out tonight, that there is here a very large field for systematic 
experimentation by psychologists, because it is now possible to explore 
areas of the mind at a minimum expense to the body, areas which 
were almost impossible to get at before, except either by the use of 
extremely dangerous drugs or else by looking around for the rather 
rare people who spontaneously can go into this world. (Of course it 
is very difficult for them to go in on demand, "the Spirit bloweth where 
it listeth," we can never be sure that the people with the spontaneous 
gift of visionary experience will have it on demand.) With such drugs 
as psilocybin it is possible for the majority of people to go into this 
other world with very little trouble and with almost no harm to them- 


Plaving discussed the means of access to this world of visionary ex- 
perience, let me begin to talk about the nature of the world. What is 
the nature of visionary experience? 

Light • Tlie highest common factor, I think, in all these experiences is 
the factor of light. There can be both negative, bad light, and good light. 
In Paradise Lost, Milton talks about the illumination of hell which he 
says is darkness visible. This I think is probably a very good psycho- 
logical description of the kind of sinister light which sometimes vision- 
aries do see, and it is a light which I think many schizophrenics see. 

Visionary Experience ( ( 201 

In Dr. Sechehaye's volume Journal dune Schizophrene,^ her patient 
describes precisely this appalling light which she lives in: it is a kind 
of helhsh light, it is a light like the glare inside a factory, the hideous 
glare of modern electric lighting gleaming upon machines. But on the 
other hand, those who go into a positive experience say this light is of 
incredible beauty and significance. 

The light experience on the positive side may be divided, I think, 
into two main types. There is the experience of what may be called 
undifferentiated light, an experience just of hght, of everything being 
flooded with light. And there is the experience of differentiated light, 
that is to say of objects, of people, of landscapes which seem to be 
impregnated and shining with their own light. 

In general I think it is possible to say that the experience of un- 
differentiated light tends to be the experience associated with the 
fullblown mystical experience. The mystical experience, I think, may 
be defined in a rather simple way as the experience in which the sub- 
ject-object relationship is transcended, in which there is a sense of 
complete solidarity of the subject with other human beings and with 
the universe in general. There is also a sense of what may be called 
the ultimate All-Rightness of the universe, the fact that in spite of 
pain, in spite of death, in spite of all the horrors which go on all 
around us, this universe somehow is all right, and there is a direct 
understanding of such phrases as we find, for example, in the Book 
of Job, phrases which in our ordinary state we certainly cannot under- 
stand. I mean when Job says, "Yea, though he slay me, yet will I 
trust in Him," this is incomprehensible on our ordinary biological level, 
and yet it becomes perfectly comprehensible on the mystical level, 
even on the level of induced mysticism. 

Then there is another very characteristic psychological feature in the 
mystical experience: the sense of an intense gratitude, an intense 
gratitude for the privilege of being alive in a universe as extraordinary 
as this, as altogether wonderful. Here again one finds phrases in the 
mystical literature which are completely incomprehensible on the 
ordinary, everyday, biological level but which become completely com- 
prehensible on the visionary and mystical level. For example, there is 
a phrase of William Blake's where he says "Gratitude is Heaven itself." 
What does this mean? It is very difficult to imagine in our ordinary 
state of mind, but it becomes perfectly clear in the induced or spon- 
taneous mystical condition: gratitude is Heaven itself, gratitude is 

^ Marguerite A. Sechehaye, Journal d'une Schizophrene. Auto-observation d'une 
schizophrene pedant le traitement psychotherapique. (Paris, 1950) . (Transl. by 
G. Rubin-Ral^son : Reality Lost and Regained. Autobiography of a Schizophrenic 
Girl, with Analytic Interpretation. (N.Y., 1951). 

202 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

intense, and the actual experience of gratitude has an uplifting and 
joyous quality which is beyond all words. 

The light experience is of course described again and again in the 
religious literature. After all, the most celebrated cases, (the light 
experienced by Saint Paul on the road to Damascus; a tremendous 
explosion of light which woke Mohammed out of sleep and which 
made him faint from its intensity; the experience of tremendous light 
which Plotinus described as having three or four times in his life) — 
you will find this again and again in literature. And don't let us im- 
agine that these experiences of light are confined only to remarkable 
and outstanding men and women; they are not. A great many quite 
ordinary people have had them, and this is one of the great merits 
of the most recent book of Professor Raynor C. Johnson, the book 
called Watcher on the Hills,^ where he brings together a great many 
case-histories of perfectly ordinary people who had this tremendous 
experience of undifferentiated light. If I may quote from a letter I 
received recently from an unknown correspondent— this is a woman in 
her sixties who wrote to me saying that she had had an experience as 
a school-girl which had affected her throughout her life— she said, "I 
was a girl of 15 or i6, I was in the kitchen toasting bread for tea and 
suddenly on a dark November afternoon the whole place was flooded 
with light, and for a minute by clock time I was immersed in this, and 
I had a sense that in some unutterable way the universe was all right. 
This has affected me for the rest of my life, I have lost all fear of 
death, I have a passion for light, but I am in no way afraid of death, 
because this light experience has been a kind of conviction to me that 
everything is all right in some way." 

These experiences are relatively common; many more people have 
them than at present let on, I mean we live now in a period when 
people don't like to talk about these experiences. If you have these 
experiences, you keep your mouth shut for fear of being told to go to 
a psychoanalyst. In the past, when visions were regarded as creditable, 
people talked about them. They did run, of course, a considerable risk 
because most visions in the past were regarded as being inspired by the 
devil, but if you had the luck to convince your fellows that your visions 
were divine, then you achieve a great deal of credit. But now, as I say, 
the case has altered and people don't like talking about these things. 
This is the value, I think, of Professor Maslow's recent work on what 
he calls peak experiences.^ He is collecting a very large number of 

^Watcher on the Hills (1959). 

^Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (Princeton, 1962). 

Visionary Experience ( ( 203 

cases of this kind of experience, and he reassures his students that he 
is not going to regard them as crazy if they tell about these things, 
and he says it is surprising what a number of them do come out with 
the fact that they have had these kinds of experiences. 

So much for the undifferentiated light, and here let me point out 
an interesting fact. I think one can say that in all the religions, both 
primitive and developed, light is the sort of predominant divine 
symbol, but the interesting fact is that this symbol is based upon a 
psychological fact, that the light of the world, the inner light, enlight- 
enment, the clear light of the void in the Buddhist literature, all these 
are symbols. But they are also psychological facts. Just as the great 
metaphysical systems— so it seems to me— take their origin in many 
cases from psychological experiences, so again do we see these great 
primary symbols of religious life also take their origin from psycho- 
logical experiences. This quasi-sensory experience of light is something 
which has run through many, I think one can say all, religions and has 
become, as I say, the primary symbol. 

Now from undifferentiated light we pass to differentiated light, that 
is to say, light contained in objects, shining out of things and people. 
Well, on its simplest level this is a kind of luminous living geometry. 
There is something rather interesting here. I think here again we can 
say that certain symbols are based on psychological facts. For example 
the mandalas of India, about which the late Dr. Jung was so keen, 
these too are based I think on psychological facts. In what may be 
called the early stages of the visionary experience, people do see with 
the closed eyes things which are exactly like mandalas. These great 
symbolic constructs are again based upon immediate psychological 

Beyond these, of course, there are all kinds of more realistic, natural- 
istic visionary experiences— experiences of architectures, of landscapes, 
of figures. It is interesting to find that again and again in the accounts 
given by people of visionary experiences, we find the same elements 
described, for example, in Heinrich Kliiver's book on peyote where he 
sums up most of the material which had been published up to the 
time he wrote it."^ ''We find again and again this description of lumi- 
nous landscapes and architectures encrusted with gems. The doors and 
windows are surrounded by gems, the whole world of landscape is filled 
with what Ezekiel calls the stones of fire. These descriptions of course 
very closely parallel all the accounts of paradises, posthumous worlds 
and fairvlands which are found in all the traditions of the world. We 

''Mescal (1928), 

204 ) ) ^^^^ ^ / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

shall go into this further later, but I think it is important to point out 
that here again there is a psychological basis to a great deal of material 
which is to be found in the traditional literature of religion and folk- 

Visionary Figures • We come now to the visionary figures. These also 
occur, and here again there is a very curious and interesting fact which 
has been recorded again and again in the literature both of spontaneous 
experiences and induced experiences, that when a figure is seen, it 
virtually never has a face which we recognize. Our fathers and mothers 
and wives and children do not appear. What we see is a complete 

Here again I think this fact accounts for some interesting theological 
speculations. For example, angels are not, as now theoretically sup- 
posed, the departed spirits of the dead; they belong to another species 
altogether. This exactly confirms what the psychologists have found 
in relation to induced or spontaneous experiences; these are always 
figures of strangers. 

When one starts to think about the neurology and the psychology 
of this state of affairs, it is most extraordinary that there is something 
in our brain/mind, some part of our brain/mind, which uses the mem- 
ories of visual experiences and recombines them in such a way as to 
present to the consciousness something absolutely novel, which has 
nothing to do with our private life and very little to do, as far as one 
can see, with the life of humanity in general. Personally I find it 
extremely comforting to think that I have somewhere at the back of 
my skull something which is absolutely indifferent to me and even 
absolutely indifferent to the human race. I think this is something very 
satisfying, that there is an area of the mind which doesn't care about 
what I am doing, but which is concerned with something quite, quite 
different. And why this should be and what the neurological basis is, 
I cannot imagine, but this is something which I think requires investi- 

Transfigurations • Now we come to another aspect of differentiated light 
which may be described as the spilling out from the interior world into 
the exterior world. There is a kind of visionary experience which people 
have with the eyes open and which consists in a transfiguration of the 
external world so that it seems overwhelmingly beautiful and alive and 
shining. This of course is what Wordsworth described so beautifully and 
so accurately in his great Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, and 
similar experiences can be found in the works of the mystics, in the 

Visionary Experience ( ( 205 

work of the Anglican mystic, Traherne, who gives an incredibly beau- 
tiful description of the kind of transfigured world in which he lived in 
childhood. This description ends up with the most beautiful passage 
where he describes this wonderful world, and he says, "And so with 
much ado I was taught the dirty devices of the world which now I 
unlearn and become as a little child again so that I now enter once 
more the Kingdom of God." 

And here, as I said before, here is surely one of the great challenges 
to modern education: How do we keep alive this world of immense 
value which people have had during childhood and which certain 
privileged people retain throughout their lives? How do we keep this 
alive and at the same time impart a sufficient amount of conceptual 
education to make them efficient citizens and scientists? This I don't 
know, but I am absolutely certain that this is one of the important 
challenges confronting modern education. 

This transfigured external vision is very important in relation to art. 
By no means is all art visionary art; there is wonderful art which is 
essentially not visionary art. But there is also wonderful art which is 
essentially visionary art, which is the product either of the artist's 
vision, so to say with the eyes closed, of what is happening inside his 
head, this extraordinary other world; or else a vision of the external 
world transfigured either for the good or for the evil. In the works of 
Van Gogh, for example, one can find extraordinary examples of both 
negative and positive transfiguration. One can see in the same exhibi- 
tion two pictures, one of which quite clearly is the most blissful pic- 
ture of the most blissful experience of a positively transfigured world, 
and next to it will be a picture which is absolutely terrifying in its 
sinisterness, where he has perceived the world as indeed transfigured, 
but transfigured in a purely diabolic way. One can understand the 
sufferings of this unfortunate man who could be precipitated out of a 
real paradise into something absolutely infernal, and it is not surprising 
that he ended up as a suicide. \Vhen one sees a large collection of his 
pictures it is quite easy to trace the ups and downs of his extraordinary 
experience, both of positive and of negative transfiguration. 


Now very briefly let us touch on some of the significances of vision- 
ary experience for religion and folklore. One finds, in all the traditions, 
descriptions of paradise, of the golden age, of the future life, which one 
places side by side with the descriptions of visionary experience, either 
spontaneous or induced, and sees that they are exactly the same; that 
the world described in popular religion, these other worlds, are simply 

2o6 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

descriptions of visionary experiences that men have projected from the 
inside into the universe. In all the traditions we find the same confu- 
sion of gems, and where gems are not used we find glass which, of 
course, was regarded as a very precious and strange material in the past. 
We find this in the Book of Key elation, a sea of glass in the New 
Jerusalem, the walls of which were gold and yet transparent, a kind of 
gold and transparent glass, and we find the same emphasis on glass as 
a marvelous magical material in the Northern traditions. We find it in 
the Celtic tradition, in the Welsh tradition; for example the home of 
the dead is called Ynisvitrin, the Isle of Glass, and in the Teutonic 
tradition the dead live in a place called Glasberg, the mountain of 
glass. And it is most curious to find, from Japan to Western Europe, 
these same images coming through again and again, showing how 
universal and how uniform this kind of visionary experience has been 
and how it has constantly been regarded as of immense importance 
and has been projected out into the cosmos in the various religious 


Let me talk very briefly about some of the arts which are visionary 
in nature. Needless to say, one of the most extraordinary which reached 
its pitch of excellence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is the art 
of stained glass. Anybody who has been inside Chartres Cathedral or 
inside the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris will realize how extraordinary this 
art could be, that inside the Sainte-Chapelle, for example, one is 
inside an immense gem, a most elaborate kind of jewelled vision which 
one is at the heart of. It is a very interesting historical fact that in the 
twelfth century the famous Abbot of St. Denis, Suger, says that in his 
time, in all the churches, there were two collecting boxes, one for the 
poor, and one for making stained glass windows, and whereas the 
collecting box for the poor was generally empty, the collecting box 
for stained glass windows was always full, showing that people did 
immensely value this kind of visionary experience. 

Another interesting fact is that visionary art is very often popular 
art, and many popular arts are very often visionary arts, for example 
the art of pageantry and processions of dressing up. All Kings and 
Popes and every member of the aristocracy, of the religious hierarchies 
of the past, have always understood perfectly well the enormous power 
of this kind of visionary display on human beings. These pageants, the 
entry of Kings into cities, the coronation of Popes, have always been 
immensely popular and have been, I think, among the most powerful 

Visionary Experience ( ( 207 

instruments for persuading people that de facto authority was also de 
jure, de jure divino authority. And it is by creating a kind of visionary 
surrounding, visionary environment to the symbol of naked authority, 
that naked authority comes to be accepted as legitimate. 

Another kind of popular art which is visionary is, of course, the art 
of fireworks. Fireworks had an enormous development even in the 
Roman empire, and after the invention of gunpowder they went much 
further than they could ever go in the past. But these have always 
been enormously popular forms of art and are essentially visionary arts. 

Similarly the art of spectacle in the theatre: the great Elizabethan 
and Jacobean masques of the sixteenth and seventeenth century on 
which fantastic sums were spent. There is the record of one masque 
put on by the lawyers of the Inns of Court in London which cost 
twenty thousand pounds in money of that period, which is an abso- 
lutely gigantic sum now, probably at least a quarter of a million 
pounds for one night's entertainment. I am showing the enormous 
interest and excitement which this kind of display evoked. Needless 
to say this kind of popular art, depending uf)on luminous display, is 
largely contingent upon the current development of technology. In the 
past, I am sure, with candles, extremely poor illumination was possi- 
ble, and it is interesting to note that since the invention of the para- 
bolic mirror at the end of the eighteenth century, then the invention 
of gas, then limelight, then electricity, it has become possible to pro- 
duce visionary effects in the world of the theatre which were quite out 
of the question in the past. 

Here again popular etymology is very interesting. It is interesting, 
for example, to find that Athanasius Kircher's invention in the seven- 
teenth century was immediately called Lanterna Magica; his projection 
of a luminous image in a dark room on a white screen was immediately 
felt to be in some way magical. The word "magic lantern" was felt to 
be completely appropriate to this kind of visionary experience. 

I find it very touching to think that one can trace a complete spec- 
trum of visionary experience from fireworks through the magic lan- 
tern, through the modern review or coloured movie, coloured spectacle, 
right up through the visions of the Saints and finally the undifferenti- 
ated light of the mystics. This whole thing follows a continuous curve, 
and throughout there has been this immediate sense on the part of 
almost everyone concerned that there was something intrinsically 
valuable and important in this kind of experience. 

And this leads me to my conclusion— what is the value of visionary 

2o8 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 


I suppose in a certain sense one can say the value is absolute. In a 
sense one can say that visionary experience is, so to say, a manifestation 
simultaneously of the beautiful and the true, of intense beauty and 
intense reality, and as such it doesn't have to be justified in any other 
way. After all, the Good, the True and the Beautiful are absolute 
values, and in a certain sense one can say that visionary experience has 
always been regarded as an absolute value, that it has been always felt 
to be intrinsically of immense significance and importance and worth 
having at a very great price. 

But it is also important to point out that, although they are in some 
sense intrinsically valuable and in some sense absolutely valuable, yet 
I think we can speak about visionary experiences in terms of their 
value within the frame of reference of goodness and spirituality. In 
this context I think it is very important to think of the theological 
definition of such experiences. The theological definition of a vision or 
even of a spontaneous mystical experience is "a gratuitous grace." 
These things are graces, they are given to us, we don't work for them. 
They come to us and they are gratuitous, which means to say that they 
are neither necessary nor significant for salvation or for enlightenment, 
whatever you like to call it. But if they are properly used, if they are 
co-operated with, if the memory of them is felt to be important and 
people work along the lines laid down during the vision, then they can 
be of immense value to us and of great importance in changing our 
lives. This idea of the gratuitous grace which takes on importance if 
we co-operate with it, is very significant in all the range of visionary 
experience, both spontaneous and induced. 

We shall hear from Dr. Leary ^ about the induction of such experi- 
ences by such substances as psilocybin, and I would certainly say that 
this kind of induced experience may be of no value at all, it may be 
like just going to the movies and seeing an interesting film. Or on the 
contrary, if it is co-operated with, if we perceive this has some sort of 
deep significance and we do something about it, then it may be very, 
very important in changing our lives, changing our mode of con- 
sciousness, perceiving that there are other ways of looking at the world 
than the ordinary utilitarian manner, and it may also result in signifi- 
cant changes of behaviour. We of course now come to the philosophical 
problem: what is the metaphysical status of visions, what is the 
ontological status? Well, fortunately, this is a Congress of Applied 

8 Dr. Leary spoke later that day on "How to Change Behavior." 

Visionary Experience ( ( 209 

Psychology, we don't have to go into this kind of problem, though I 
think it is worth going into, and I hope somebody will go into it 
sooner or later. But for the time being we can say, I think, that the 
value, apart from their intrinsic value, so to say the ethical, sociological 
and spiritual value of the visionary experience, is that if it is well used, 
it can result in a significant and important change in the mode of 
consciousness and perhaps also in a change in behaviour or for the 

Verbatim transcription, slightly edited. 

Chapter 34 


Exploring The 
Borderlands Of The Mind 


This Fate Magazine article describes Huxle/s impressions during 
a summer abroad in ig6iy when he attended a Parapsychology 
Conference in St. Paul-de-Vence, met with an Italian physician 
in Turin who practiced the Chinese method of acupuncture, 
visited with Dr. and Mrs. Albert Hofmann in the suburbs of 
Zurich, and then flew to the Congress of Applied Psychology in 
Copenhagen. He concludes on a political note, his life-long assert- 
ive pacifism surfacing. A French translation of this article ap- 
peared in Planete. Both the Ajnerican and French magazines are 
published largely for an occult-minded audience, which found in 
Huxley if not a champion at least an extremely gifted ally. 

Less Than two hours of flying time separates the Baltic from the world 
of the Mediterranean. In miles and minutes the distances between my 
various ports of call were very small; but by any mental measure they 
were enormous. Between post-Freudian psychotherapy and pre-Hip- 
pocratic Chinese acupuncture a great gulf is fixed. 

Telepathy seems to have nothing to do with industrial psychology 
and the measurement of I.Qs. Visionary experience induced by Dr. 
Hofmann's mind-changing synthetics is far indeed from the kind of 
thinking that resulted in a paper on "Tlie Effect of Meprobamate 
and Dextro-Amphetamine Sulphate on the Reaction Times of Normal 
Non-Hospitalized Subjects to Neutral and Taboo Words." And from 
all these it is a long, long way to that ultimate "freedom from the 

Exploring The Borderlands Of The Mind (( 211 

known/' about which Krishnamurti talks. And yet all these incommen- 
surable universes co-exist inside the human skull. Actually or poten- 
tially, they are all our universes. "What a piece of work is a man!" 

The conference at Saint Paul-de-Vence was organized by the 
Parapsychology Foundation, whose president is that gifted, sensitive 
and indefatigable instigator of psychical research, Mrs. Eileen Garrett. 
There were four psychiatrists, Italian and Swiss, a Parisian endo- 
crinologist and another French doctor specializing in psychosomatic 
medicine, an eminent English neurologist. Dr. Grey Walter, and a 
young American parapsychologist, actively engaged in research and 

A number of papers were read— on cases of apparently telepathic 
rapport between doctor and patient in psychotherapy; on the induction 
of hypnosis at a distance by telepathic means; on a series of experi- 
ments that seemed to show that a sleeper's dreams can be affected 
telepathically; and on another series, in which an instrument called 
the plethysmograph was used to record bodily changes occurring, on 
the unconscious level, in response to stimuli telepathically received. 
These reports of research in Switzerland and America were preceded 
by the work carried out in Russia 25 years ago, but only recently pub- 
lished, openly discussed and resumed. 

The purpose of the Soviet research was to find out whether 
E.S.P. is a fact and, if it is, whether it can be explained in terms of 
physics, as a product of some kind of electromagnetic radiation. En- 
closed in leaden capsules and immersed in baths of mercury, so that 
no radiation could possibly reach them, sensitive subjects turned in 
significantly good performances. Tlie experimenters were forced to 
conclude— and in the days of Stalin the conclusion was extremely 
embarrassing— that telepathy occurs and is not a form of radio. 

What does one do about data that do not suffer themselves to be 
explained in terms of currently accepted theory? In all too many 
cases, as William James pointed out two generations ago, one sticks to 
one's theory and does one's best to ignore the disturbing data. Herbert 
Spencer's idea of a tragedy (in T. H. Huxley's words) was a beautiful 
generalization murdered by an ugly fact. 

Spencer's scholastic soul goes marching along, and the tendency 
to prefer the high, hallowed generalization to the odd, low, presump- 
tuous datum is still to be met with even in the most respectable scien- 
tific circles. In terms of currently accepted theories the facts of 
parapsychology "make no sense." What is to be done? Should we shut 
our eyes to them in the hope that, if we don't look at them, they will 
go away and leave us in peace? Or should we accept them? 

Accept them for the time being as inexplicable anomalies, while 

212 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

doing our best to modify current theories in such a way that they will 
"save the appearances"— czZZ the appearances, including those that 
now seem to be outside the pale of explanation. The Society for Psy- 
chical Research was founded in 1882, and those who have chosen 
the second of these two possible approaches to psi-phenomena are still 
hopefully waiting for a theory capable of saving all the appearances, 
from the atomic to the extra-sensory. From William James to C. D. 
Broad and H. H. Price in our own day, a succession of psi-minded 
philosophers have hinted at ways in which all the appearances might be 
saved. But their suggestions have never been raised to the level of 
a testable theory, and the facts of parapsychology remain, after 80 
years of systematic study, as odd and inexplicable as ever. 

From Saint Paul and the extremely anomalous world of para- 
psychology I journeyed to Turin, where my wife and I spent a mem- 
orable evening talking with Dr. Quaglia Senta about his experience 
in the still rather anomalous universe of acupuncture. The Jesuit 
missionaries were the first Europeans to report on this curious branch 
of Chinese medicine. But it was not until 1928 that a full and accurate 
account of acupuncture reached the West. In that year Soulie de Morant 
returned from China and published his first treatise on the subject. 

Today several hundreds of European doctors (and one lone 
English physician) combine the science and art of Western medicine 
with the ancient science and art of Chinese acupuncture. International 
Congresses of Acupuncture are now convened (the last was at the Uni- 
versity of Clermont Ferrand), and it is reported that Soviet doctors are 
now taking a lively interest in the subject. 

That a needle stuck into the outside surface of the leg a little below 
the knee should affect the functioning of the liver is obviously incred- 
ible. If our primary concern is to save, not the appearances, but our 
theory, we shall be tempted to ignore the empirically established 
facts and to dismiss the claims of the acupuncturists as mere super- 
stition and hocus-pocus. It can't be true because, within our present 
frame of reference, it makes no sense. 

To the Chinese, on the contrary, it may be perfectly good sense. In 
the normally healthy organism, they maintained, there is a continuous 
circulation of energy. Illness is at once a cause and a result of 
a derangement of this circulation. Vital organs may suffer from a 
deficiency or a disturbing excess of the hfe-force. Acupuncture re- 
directs and normalizes the flow of energy. 

This is possible because, as a matter of empirical fact, the limbs, 
trunk and head are lined with invisible "meridians," related in some 
way to the various organs of the body. On these meridians are 
located specially sensitive points. A needle inserted at one of these 

Exploring The Borderlands Of The Mind (( 213 

points will affect the functioning of the organ related to the meridian 
on which the point lies. By pricking at a number of judiciously 
selected points the skilled acupuncturist re-establishes the normal 
circulation of energy and brings the patient back to health. 

Once again we are tempted to shrug our shoulders and say that it 
makes no sense. But then, reading the proceedings of the most recent 
Congress of Acupucture, we learn that experimenters have been able, 
by means of delicate electrical measuring instruments, to trace the 
course of the Chinese meridians, and that when a strategic point is 
pricked with a needle relatively large changes of electrical state can 
be recorded. So perhaps, after all, the odd appearances of acupuncture 
will end by being saved even by our theories. 

Meanwhile the fact remains that there are pathological symptoms on 
which the old Chinese methods work very well. Among these pathologi- 
cal symptoms (and this, in our present context, is particularly inter- 
esting) are various undesirable mental states— certain kinds of de- 
pression and anxiety, for example— which, being presumably related to 
organic derangements, disappear as soon as the normal circulation of 
energy is restored. Results which several years on the analyst's couch 
have failed to produce may be obtained, in some cases, by two or 
three pricks with a silver needle. 

And this brings me to our conversation in the suburbs of Zurich, 
with Dr. and Mrs. Albert Hofmann. We human beings, in Andrew 
Marvell's phrase, are "rational amphibii," inhabiting simultaneously a 
soul-world and a world of first-order experience, a world of abstract 
notions and generalizations and a world of unique events. Dr. Hofmann 
is an eminent chemist, whose most recent and spectacular work 
has been done in that strange borderland between two worlds, where 
the tiniest of biochemical changes will produce enormous and revolu- 
tionary changes in the mind. 

Dr. Hofmann's synthetics are new; but the ethical, philosophical 
and religious problems that they so dramatically raise are very old. 
That beer (together with tea, coffee, aspirin, vitamins and a score 
of psychic energizers and tranquillizers) should do "more than Milton 
can/To justify God's ways to man" is a plain fact of observation and 
experience— a fact which some people find depressing and humil- 
iating, others consolatory and rather amusing. To what extent are our 
thoughts, beliefs and actions the products of our inherited physique 
and temperament, and of the fluctuations, in response to internal and 
external events, of our body-chemistry? Just how valid is a philoso- 
phy based upon a state of mind (say the conviction of sin) which 
can be radically changed by the prick of a needle or a small daily 
dose of Ritalin? And what about those experiences induced by Dr. 

214 ) ) ^^^^ ^ / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

Hofmann's physically harmless mind-changers— experiences of a world 
transfigured into unimaginable loveliness, charged with intrinsic signifi- 
cance, and manifesting, in spite of pain and death, an essential and 
(there is no other word) divine All-Rightness? Yes, what about them? 
Opinions differ. 

For most of those to whom the experiences have been vouchsafed, 
their value is self-evident. By Dr. Zaehner, the author of Mysticism 
Sacred and Profane, their deliberate induction is regarded as immoral. 
To which his colleague, Professor Price retorts in effect, "Speak for 

Price would agree with William James that, if one can achieve the 
feat without harming oneself or others, the induction of unusual 
states of consciousness is salutary and enlightening. And long ago, 
defending William James against those who had blamed him for 
experimenting with nitrous oxide, Bergson pointed out that the chem- 
ical was not the cause of James's remarkable metaphysical experiences, 
merely their occasion. The same experiences might have been induced 
by purely psychological means, by the mortifications and exercises 
used by the mystics and visionaries of every religious tradition, by 
any method, indeed, capable of altering states of mind or changing 
body chemistry in such a way as to lower the barrier separating 
the world fabricated by our everyday, biologically useful and socially 
conditioned perceptions, thoughts and feelings from the strange and 
yet subjectively (and perhaps even objectively) no less real worlds 
revealed when the mode of consciousness has been changed from the 
utilitarian to the aesthetic or spiritual. 

Spiritual. . . . For sensitive ears, alive to its overtones of inspirational 
twaddle, this is almost a dirty word. And yet, in certain contexts, what 
other word can one use? Reading Meister Eckhart, for example, 
or listening, as we did at Gstaad, to Krishnamurti, one is forced to 
recognize that "spiritual" can be mot juste. "1 show you sorrow and the 
ending of sorrow." 

All the great masters of the spiritual life (that word again!) have 
been at once profoundly pessimistic and almost infinitely optimistic. If 
certain conditions are fulfilled, human beings may cease to behave as the 
pathetic or deplorable creatures they mistakenly think they are and be 
what in fact they always have been, if they had only given themselves a 
chance of knowing it— enlightened, liberated, "godded in God." But 
that more than a very few of us will ever fulfill those conditions is 
overwhelmingly improbable. Many are called, but very few are chosen; 
for very few ever choose to be chosen. 

The ending of sorrow is feasible; but the continuance of sorrow is 
certain. All that the masters of the spiritual life can do is to remind us 

Exploring The Borderlands Of The Mind (( 215 

of who in fact we are and of the means whereby we may come to the 
recognition of our identity— meditation in the sense of complete and 
inclusive awareness at every instant, and the corollaries of such medita- 
tion, right being and, from right being, spontaneous right action. 

From France, Italy and Switzerland, and from far-out E.S.P., 
farther-out visionary experience and farthest-out enlightenment, we 
flew to Copenhagen and the International Congress of Applied Psy- 
chology. What is Applied Psychology? Or should one put it the other 
way round and ask what is not Applied Psychology? Answer: precious 
little, at least in regard to individual behavior on the (statistically 
speaking) normal level. This capacious subject was discussed at 
Copenhagen by 1,300 delegates, who listened to two or three hundred 
papers on every conceivable subject from "Figure Drawing as an 
Expression of Self-Esteem" to "Social Research in the Arctic." 

The world is so full of a number of things, and universities are so 
full of a number of psychologists, that I cannot possibly do justice 
to all that was read and spoken at Copenhagen. I shall therefore con- 
fine myself to the most important question of all, and the one to 
which, alas, the answers proposed were the least satisfactory. Can 
psychology contribute to the easing of international tensions, the solu- 
tion of conflicts, the maintenance of peace? 

In the lecture with which Professor Osgood opened the Congress,* 
and in the papers read at the next day's symposium, there were plenty 
of sensible and humane suggestions. One listened with approval, but 
at the same time with a haunting doubt. 

Would the sensible and humane suggestions be accepted? In the 
present historical context, in the prevailing ideological climate, could 
they be accepted? And though it is obviously true that, in Dr. Baum- 
garten-Tramer's words, there exists an urgent Notwendigkeit der Bildung 
einer Psychologie fUr Politiker, is it probable that the few scores of 
politicians, generals and technologists, at whose mercy the remaining 
29,000 million of the human race now find themselves, will consent 
to go to school again and learn that psychology for statesmen which 
it is so indispensably necessary to formulate and teach? Tliese few 
enormously powerful men, at whose mercy the whole human race 
now lies, are themselves the hypnotized prisoners of political and philo- 
sophical traditions which, being grounded in nationalistic idolatry 
and ideological dogmatism, have in the past invariably led to war. 

The neurotic individual is a person who responds to the challenges 

1 Osgood, C. E., "Towards international behavior appropriate to a nuclear age." 
hi Psychology and International Affairs, Proceedings of the XIV International 
Congress of Applied Psychology, Vol. 1, pp. 109-132. Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 

2i6 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

of the present in terms of the obsessively remembered past. In so far 
as their policies are dictated by old erroneous notions fossilized into 
dogmas, all societies exhibit the symptoms of collective neurosis, and 
the few powerful men in whose clutch (like Gulliver in the paw 
of the Brobdingnagian monkey) mankind now impotently writhes, 
are themselves the victims of their society's alienation from present 

In earlier times, when the rate of technological and demographic 
change was slow, societies could afford the luxury of their collective 
neurosis. Today political behavior dictated by obsessive memories of 
the past (in other words, by venerable traditions that have lost their 
point, and by old, silly or actually diabolic notions raised to the level 
of first principles and canonized as dogmas) is apt to be fatally 

And, alas, the cure for this fatal inappropriateness of current politi- 
cal behavior cannot be found in applied psychology alone. The problem 
is exceedingly complex and, if it is ever to be solved, it must be 
attacked simultaneously on many fronts— on the semantic front (for 
it is an affair of misused language and unexamined beliefs); on the 
organizational front (for it involves the brute fact of power and the 
problems of its control); on the philosophical front (for our political 
behavior is influenced to some extent by our view of human nature); 
on the biological front (for beneath the political problems lie the 
problems of rocketing population and unevenly distributed resources). 

A co-ordinated attack on all these fronts will be difficult to mount 
and harder still to sustain. Time is not on our side. Given the facts of 
individual and social inertia, can we do what has to be done within 
the brief and dwindling span which modern histor}' (the history of 
headlong technological and demographic change, with all their social 
consequences) allows us? On the international level an ending of 
at least some of our collective sorrows is feasible. How likely is it? 
All the nations and their rulers are called. Before it is too late, 
will thev choose to be chosen? 

Chapter 35 


Love and Work 


While correcting the proofs of Island in their new home (which 
they shared with Ginny Pfeiffer) on Mulholland Highwayy 
Huxley one day put aside his work to make another trial of 
psilocyhin. The major portion of this session was tape recorded, 
and later transcribed and edited by his wife Laura. It is apparently 
the only "live" account in existence of Aldous in the psychedelic 
state. Laura's understanding of the role of guide had deepened 
since the 1955 episode, enriched by her own psychedelic ex- 
periences, as well as those she arranged for some of her patients 
at an appropriate stage of their psychotherapy. 

The mantras unfold: love and work, passion and detachment, 
the "fundamental sanity" that exists in the world "in spite of all 
the distraction and preposterous nonsense which is going on," the 
synchronicity of great philosophy and running noses leading into 
a discussion of death and the value of the Eastern yoga of dying, 
exemplified in the Bhagavad-Gita, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, and 
above all. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. 

The following is a report of a psychedelic session with Aldous. 
It is the onl}' one of which I have a tape recording, not of the entire 
session but of the major portion. 

A few months after Aldous's death, when I found this tape, 
I was deeply moved by it. I had forgotten it, and now, after his 
death, these words were more than ever meaningful if, at times, 
equivocal. And how nice it was to swing from "life after death" 
to "soup here and now," from the Sermon on the Mount to running 

2i8 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

noses! And again I realized the constant consideration and encourage- 
ment Aldous gave to my current project, even on that extraordinary 

I first thought of publishing his recorded words as they are, without 
comment. But when the tape was transcribed on paper I began to 
see that they would not be as clear to a reader as they were to me, 
a participant in the dialogue. There is a world of difference between 
reading a conversation and hearing it. In reading, two important 
elements are missing: the voice, so significant particularly in Aldous's 
case, for he had such a variety of inflections, of color and moods and 
rhythm; and the pauses, always important but more so in this kind of 
dialogue. I could have edited this conversation, but I prefer to leave 
it as it is on the tape. Aldous's phrases are not as well rounded and 
clear as in his writings and lectures— but he was not giving a lecture; 
he was speaking to me. I feel that the content and the authenticity 
of his words outweigh the consideration of literary elegance. 

Another reason for commenting on this taped conversation is that 
Aldous is referring to subjects unfamiliar to many people. The ex- 
periencing of the Clear Light of the Void, of the Bardo or after-death 
state, of the fighting hero of the Bhagavad-Gita— these are not every- 
day topics; yet they are of the greatest importance for us all. In this 
conversation Aldous refers to two books: The Bhagavad-Gita and the 
Tibetan Book of the Dead. I had not read these books at the time, but 
Aldous had told me a great deal about them. To anyone who has 
read them, \\'hat Aldous says is intellectually clear. But while familiarity 
N^'ith these books throws a light on our dialogue, Aldous's conversation 
—the atmosphere, the aura of it— is in no way a discussion of them. 
The extraordinary part of this conversation is the feeling that Aldous 
is experiencing that which he has known for a long time. But, as he 
wrote in "Knowledge and Understanding," ^ there is a world of differ- 
ence: ''Understanding is primarily direct awareness of raw materials." 
On the other hand, knowledge is acquired and "can be passed on and 
shared by means of words and other symbols. Understanding is an 
immediate experience and can only be talked about (very inadequately), 
never shared." Knowledge is "public." Understanding is "private." In 
Island the children are given an illustration of this difference in the 
lower fifth grade, at about the age of ten. 

'Words are public; they belong to all the speakers of a given 
language; they are listed in dictionaries. And now let's look at 
the things that happen out there.' He pointed through the 

^ Collected Essays (N.Y.: Bantam, i960), 

Love and Work ( ( 219 

open window. Gaudy against a white cloud, half a dozen par- 
rots came sailing into view, passed behind a tree and were 
gone. . . . '^Vhat happens out there is public— or at least fairly 
public,' he qualified. 'And what happens when someone speaks 
or writes words— that's also public. But the things that go on 
inside ... are private. Private.' He laid a hand on his chest. 
'Private,' He rubbed his forehead. 'Private.' 

The words Aldous spoke in this psychedelic experience can be 
looked up in the dictionary; they are public. The understanding of 
his experience is a private matter for each of us. 

This session was different from others in many ways. Usually, when 
we had a psychedelic session, the evening before and the day of the 
session were kept absolutely and rigorously empty. This time we went 
out to dinner the night preceding the session. I further notice from 
my calendar that on the day of the session, January 22, 1962— a Mon- 
day—there were three other entries: a house guest arriving at the 
airport, the maid's birthday, and a tentative visit to a family whose 
three members were all mentally ill, but at large. 

It was because the day was not to be entirely free that we changed 
from LSD to psilocybin. Unlike LSD, which lingers on for many hours 
even after the high point is passed, psilocybin usually shuts off com- 
pletely. In fact, this session lasted only from 10:40 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. 
Considering that Aldous had taken such a small dose, we wondered, 
later, that it had such a marked effect. 

That morning after breakfast we went to my studio apartment, 
where we would not be disturbed. The studio is practically empty of 
furniture. The floor is covered by a shaggy white rug— it looks like 
white grass and is soft and pleasant to sit on. As usual, but especially 
for a psychedelic session, there were fresh flowers and fruits. Here 
and there, punctuating the white emptiness, there were fresh bamboo, 
shells, art books, records, and a few branches of golden acacia that 
had just burst into bloom in our half-burned garden. In the nook off 
the living room there were unpainted bookshelves, a large piece of 
unpainted wood which serves as a desk, a tape recorder, and two small 

At 10:40 a.m., Aldous took four mg of psilocybin. 

There is a period of half an hour to about two hours between the 
ingestion of psilocybin and the beginning of its effect. Usually during 
this period we talked or looked at pictures; more often we listened 
to music— or did nothing at all. One never knows in which direction 
these experiences may move. Sometimes the "doors of perception" are 
cleansed suddenly with a jolt; sometimes the cleansing comes gradually 
with ever increasing discoveries. These discoveries may be psychological 

220 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

insights, or may be made through any of the senses— it is usually from 
the eyes that the scales first flake off. 

In the psychedelic session the role of a companion is to be there, 
fully attentive, and with no preconceived opinion of what might happen. 
A companion must be, at the same time, completely there and com- 
pletely out of the way. Sometimes one feels that one should be there 
in the most intense and alert passivity one can master— but, para- 
doxically, be there invisibly. However, this was never the case with 
Aldous. Sessions with him had always been easy, and I knew he wanted 
me there, visible and tangible. 

A companion to the psychedelic experience should not have a pre- 
conceived idea— but to have no opinion is very hard to achieve. As 
it happens, that morning I found myself thinking that this session 
would be very light, since the dosage was so small, and that it would 
be similar to the others I had with Aldous— that it would modulate 
from beauty and the intense presence of life to love on all levels, the 
human as well as the mystical. 

Surprisingly Aldous asked me to stop the music. It was Bach, 
probably the Musical Offering or a cantata. 

I turned off the record player, and as I was wondering whether 
Aldous would want to hear something else, he got up from the floor 
where he was sitting and began pacing the corridor joining the living 
room to the bedroom. This also had never happened before. Aldous, 
like most people in a psychedelic experience, would move very little, 
generally staying in the same place most of the day. 

I paced with him a few times, trying to feel what he was feeling. 
He looked preoccupied, and there was a feeling of agitation in him, 
and— again most unusual— he was muttering something in a low, 
unclear voice. I could not at first make out what he was saying. Tlien 
I understood the words "Confusion— terrible confusion." I paced the 
floor with him again— there was an unusual agitation in his movements, 
in his expression, in the half phrases he was saying. After a while, to 
my question, "W'liere is this confusion?" he said it was in life after 
death; I think he mentioned the word limbo. He \\as contacting, or 
being, or feeling, a bodiless world in which there was a terrifying 

In psychedelic sessions there are often long periods, sometimes 
hours, when not a single word is uttered. Music, or sometimes silence, 
is the least inadequate way to express the unspeakable, the best way 
not to name the unnamable. But I knew those ecstatic moments, for 
they were reflected in Aldous's face— and even in those moments 
Aldous would say a word or two. But this was a different situation. 
Aldous was not having an ecstatic experience— he was going through 

Love and Work (( 221 

something very intense, of great importance, but not pleasant. He 
did not seem to be willing or able to put it into words. This state 
lasted perhaps half an hour. Then quite suddenly he said, "It is all 
right now— it is all right." His face changed; he sat in the armchair 
near the tape recorder; that other world had suddenly dissolved. He 
looked well and I could feel he was now ready to speak about his 
experience. His mind was at a high pitch of activity. 


You see, this is— I was thinking of one of your titles— this is one of 
the ways of trying to make ice cubes out of running water, isn't it? To 
fix something and try to keep it— of course, it is always wrong. 

I thought he meant it was wrong to fix his impression on tape. 

LAURA: Well, let's stop the recorder. 

ALDOus (immediately and with emphasis): No, no— I don't mean that. 

I mean the pure light is the greatest ice cube of all, the ultimate 

ice cube. 

Aldous was referring to one of my "Recipes for Living and Loving," 
which had required a lot of rewriting. The title of the recipe is: "Don't 
Try to Make Ice Cubes Out of a Flowing River." - Its concept is that 
our organisms are continuously changing in a continuously changing 
world; that the essence of life is its fluidit}^, its ability to change, to 
flow and to take a new course; that the trouble is that sometimes, 
usually unconsciously and unwillingly, we freeze a piece of this flowing 
life into an "ice cube." In the recipe, examples are given illustrating 
how harmful this can be; then there are directions on how to unfreeze 
these "ice cubes" that imprison our life and energy. Briefly, "ice cube" 
refers to the enduring, chilling effect of an unexpressed overemotional 
experience of grief, anger, or fear in their varied and numerous 
manifestations. Aldous had helped me with the recipe, and the 
phrase "ice cubes in a flowing river" ^^•as a current phrase with us. 

ALDOUS: The pure light. This is the greatest ice cube of all— it's the 
ultimate ice cube. 

The Pure Light. Tlie Clear Light of the Void. The experience of 
Godliness. Mystical experience. The peak experience. . . . How many 
names, throughout the centuries and in all different cultures, have 

2 You Are Not the Target (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroax, 1963), 
Chapter 23. 

222 ) ) PART 2 / Psychcdelic and Visionary Experience 

been given to that state for which the most sophisticated of word 
virtuosos say there are no words! I remember Aldous's saying that 
Saint Augustine, who wrote volumes of treatises basic to Catholic 
.;theology, toward the end of his life had the experience of Pure 
Light— and never wrote a word again. In Island Aldous describes 
that experience as "knowledgeless understanding, luminous bliss." 

LAURA: You thought you were going to have that [the Pure Light] today? 

aldous: Well now, I can if I want to! But I mean it is very good to 
realize that it is just the— so to say— the mirror image of this other 
thing. It is just this total distraction— I mean, if you can immobilize 
the total distraction long enough, then it becomes the pure, one- 
pointed distraction— pure light. 

LAURA: If you can immobilize it? What do you mean? 

aldous: You can immobilize it, but it isn't the real thing— you can 
remain for eternity in this thing at the exclusion of love and work. 

LAURA: But that thing should be love and work. 

ALDOUS (with emphasis): Exactly! I mean this is why it is wrong. As I 
was saying, this illustrates that you mustn't make ice cubes out of 
a Flowing River. You may succeed in making ice cubes . . . this is 
the greatest ice cube in the world. But you can probably go on 
for— oh, you can't go on forever— but for enormous eons— for what 
appears [this word is greatly emphasized] to be eternity, being in 

In his later years Aldous put more and more emphasis on the 
danger of being addicted to meditation only, to knowledge only, to 
wisdom onZy— without love. Just now he had experienced the tempta- 
tion to an addiction of an even higher order: the addiction of being 
in the light and staying there. "Now, I can if I want to," he had said. 
Staying in this ecstatic consciousness and cutting oneself off from 
participation and commitment to the rest of the world— this is perfectly 
expressed today, in powerful slang, in the phrase "dropping out." 

ALDOUS (continuing): It completely denies the facts: it is morally 
wrong; and finally, of course, absolutely catastrophic. 

"Absolutely catastrophic." Those two words are said with the 
most earnest and profound conviction. The voice is not raised, but 
each letter is as if sculptured on a shining block of Carrara marble 
—and remains sculptured on the soul of anyone who hears it. It is a 
definitive statement: one cannot isolate oneself from one's fellows and 
environment, for there is no private salvation; one might "get stuck" 
even in the Pure Light instead of infusing it in "Love and Work," 
which is the direct solution for everyone's life, right here and now. 

Love and Work ( ( 223 

Love and Work— if I should put in a nutshell the essence of Aldous's 
life, I could not find a more precise way of saying it. 

After the words "absolutely catastrophic," the tape runs for a 
while in silence. And then there is a complete change of mood. A 
tender, enveloping smile is in Aldous's voice, my smile. It comes through 
the voice, creating an atmosphere of love and amused surprise, but, 
above all, of tenderness. 

ALDOUs: I don't know how you got all these things, darling. (Laughter.) 
What came into this hard, hard skull of yours— how do all these 
extraordinary ideas come in? 

He was always so pleased when I invented something, and he was 
now going back to the ice-cube recipe. 

LAURA: At least the one of the ice cubes I remember very well. I 

was giving LSD to and I had this feeling ... I just practically 

was seeing a torrent of water— you know, a river— and he was trying 
to make such logic out of it— so that he would show that all those 
people lied, you see. . . . 

ALDOUS : (interrupting with hearty laughter): Of course they lie! 

LAURA: And I had the impression that he was rationalizing water, or 
even trying to freeze a piece of this flowing river and make ice cubes 
of it. . . . 

ALDOUS : (still laughing, and touching my head) : But you have so many 
ideas. Obviously, this terribly hard skull has a hole in it somewhere. 
(A great deal of chuckling and laughter.) 

LAURA: I hope so. 

ALDOUS (after a silence): It is certainly very remarkable. 

Having "a. hole in one's skull" has different meaning for different 
people. Aldous meant here that these ideas must have flowed into my 
head, not out of it. Especially after his psychedelic experiences, Aldous 
often mentioned the Bergson theory— that our brain and nervous 
system are not the source of our ideas, but rather a reducing valve 
through which Mind-at-Large trickles only the kind of information 
that is necessary for us to survive on this planet. A temporary widen- 
ing of that valve, or "a hole in the head," permits a fragment of 
Mind-at-Large to flow in— that is what we usually call inspiration. 
In The Doors of Perception, where Aldous reports his first psychedelic 
experience, he speaks at length of this theory of Bergson's and says 
that it should be seriously considered. 

There is a silence on the tape and then the dialogue continues 
in a thoughtful, serious mood. 

224 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

LAURA: I don't remember if I told you, or I dreamed I told you— did 

I tell you of the phrase running in my mind these days, "I am a 

thousand people"? 
ALDOUS: No, you didn't tell me. 
LAURA: But that also doesn't make anything easy. 
ALDOUS: No, obviously. And when there is no anchorage anywhere 

—when, to come back to after death, I mean, there will be no 

anchorage. . . . 
LAURA: Oh, yes. I see. 

Aldous was thinking about, and putting in words, the experience 
he had had a while before, when he was walking up and down the 
corridor. He had experienced the bodiless state of After-Death, where 
there is a survival of consciousness, but not of the body as we know it. 

ALDOUS: So, when there will be a thousand people rushing in different 
directions— I mean, anyhow . . . (then in a yery low aside) your hair 
smells the same as acacias . . . your head is very solid (touching my 
head) because the point is: when there isn't anything like this. . . . 

This— a. tangible body, something to see, to hear, to smell, to touch- 
in contrast to that other state of being, which he had experienced 
before, where there were feelings and thoughts, but no perceptions, 
senses, or solid forms as we are used to them. 

LAURA: When there is nothing to hold on. . . . 

ALDOUS: There are a thousand different people going in a thousand 
different directions: and this is what you have a hint of now. And 
this, of course, is what is so terrible, but I think that I know— (And 
after a pause, with deep conviction) but I know that there will 
always be— and I mean this is the extraordinary experience— at least 
there is somebody there who knows there are a thousand other people 
going in different directions— that there is a fundamental sanity of 
the world, which is always there in spite of the thousand people 
going in a thousand different directions. And while we are in space 
and time, surrounded by gravity, we are controlled to a considerable 
extent. (I wish I could convey the depth of Aldous' s voice here, the 
feeling of wonder.) But to have an insight into what it is when 
there isn't any control except this fundamental knowledge— I mean 
this is where the bardo is right. 

Aldous is referring to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the After- 
Death Experience on the Bardo Plane. I had first heard of this book 
from Aldous a few days after Maria's death. In answer to a note 
from me he had asked me for lunch and a walk. He knew innumerable 

Love and Work (( 225 

country lanes right in the middle of Los Angeles and not far from 
his home, so after lunch we went walking in Laurel Canyon. I had 
many questions in my mind about Maria and he answered them with- 
out my asking, telling me all that had happened after our summer 
meeting in Rome. 

He said that for the last few hours of her life he had spoken to her, 
encouraging her to go forward, as in the Bardo. "Wliat is that?" I 
asked. He told me then about the Bardo— or the intermediate plane 
following bodily death, as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, 
explaining that in these ancient teachings the dying person is encour- 
aged to go on— to go further— not to be preoccupied or encumbered 
with this present body, or with relatives or friends or unfinished busi- 
ness, but to go into a wider state of consciousness. 

He went on to say that the Tibetan Book of the Dead is as much 
a manual of the Art of Living as it is of the Art of Dying. The survivors 
are advised to think of the loved one and of his need and destiny in 
his new state of consciousness rather than to be completely and 
egocentrically involved in their own grief. "Go on. Go forward"— to 
both consciousnesses, the one who is still using the body and the one 
whose body is being discarded— that is sound and compassionate 
advice. "Go on. Go forward." 

How many of us are walking around, not wholly alive because part 
of us did not go forward but died with Mother or Father or some 
other beloved person— even, at times, a pet? The terrifying, incom- 
prehensible fact of death is difficult enough to accept and assimilate 
even with the most illumined teaching, even with the warmest, most 
tangible encouragement— let alone when there is no help in under- 
standing, in accepting, in speaking about death. How can one even 
begin to understand death when it is hardly a permissible subject in 
good society? Sex is now an acceptable topic of conversation; death is 
still swept under the carpet, still locked in the dungeon, as the insane 
were, not too long ago. 

That first walk after Maria's death remained impressed on me. I 
had vaguely heard of this wise, noble way of dealing with death, as an 
esoteric doctrine. Now Aldous, stricken and pale, yet fully alive, was 
telling me how he had applied this knowledge; how he had encouraged 
Maria to go on without worry or regrets. As he spoke during that walk 
I compared my own acquaintance with death: the lugubrious services, 
tragically chanting of sin, hellfire, and eternal damnation; the piteous 
begging for mercy from a distant deity, alternately irate and forgiving; 
while we, the survivors, enmeshed in grief and completely centered in 
it, hardly gave thought to the dead person except in relation to our 
anguish. It is distressing to think that the concern and money lavished 

226 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

on cadavers in America would be enough to feed millions of children, 
enough to divert lives of delinquency and despair into lives of human 
dignity and happiness. 

Aldous continued to tell me, during that first walk after Maria's 
death, how he had carried her over as far as he could. He was as crushed 
as any human being who has lost a beloved companion of a lifetime; 
and yet, at the time of her death, he had been able to divert his own 
attention from the pain of losing her and focus both her mind and 
his on that most important fact— on that fundamental sanity of which 
he speaks in every psychedelic experience— and throughout this one. 

The tape continues. 

aldous: The Bardo is right. You see, you have to be aware of this 
thing, and hang onto it for dear h'/e- otherwise you are just com- 
pletely in a whirlwind. 

LAURA: Yes. But how many people do know this? 

ALDOUS (with great emphasis): Exactly! But this is why they say we 
really ought to start preparing for this. (Aldous was speaking about 
preparation for death.) And I must say I think it is terribly important 
that through this knowledge that we get through these mushrooms 
or whatever it is,^ you understand a little bit of what it is all about. 
I think the most extraordinary experience is to know that there is 
all this insanity which is just the multiplication . . . the caricature 
of the normal insanity that goes on. But that there is a fundamental 
sanity which you can remain one with and be aware of. This, of 
course, is the whole doctrine of the Bardo— helping people to be 
aware of the fundamental sanity which is there in spite of all the 
terrifying things— and also not really terrifying, but sometimes 
ecstatic, wonderful things. You mustn't go to heaven, as they con- 
tinually say. 

Again and again! No dropping out from Love and Work, even from 
an unsatisfactory society, into the personal isolated security of Pure 
Light with or without psychedelics. "As they continuously say"— Aldous 
is referring to the Mahayana Buddhists, for whom the Bodhisattva 
is the highest form of man: such a man does not wallow in private 
salvation but lives and participates in the world's activities out of 
compassion for those who have not \'et achieved enlightenment. 

I wanted to know more about not going to heaven. 

LAURA: You mustn't go to heaven? 

3 "The sacred mushrooms" {Psilocybe mexicana), of which psilocybin is the 
chemical synthesis — "or whatever it is," meaning psychedehc materials in general. 
[L. Huxley's note] 

Love and Work ( ( 227 

ALDOUS: You mustn't go to heaven. It is just as dangerous. It is 
temporary— and somehow you want to hold on to the ultimate truth 
of things. 

LAURA: Tlie ultimate truth of things? 

ALDOUS: Well, I mean . . . the total light of the world, I suppose, 
which is in the here and now we experience. It's of course the 
mind-body. But when you are released from the body there has to 
be some experimental equivalent of the body, something has to be 
held on to ... I don't know. 

LAURA: What does one hold to then? 

ALDOUS: All you can say is one holds to this fundamental sanity, which 
as I say is guaranteed, as long as one is in the body, by the fact of 
space and time and gravity, and three dimensions and all the rest 
of it. Somehow, when you get rid of those anchors— 

In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, we are often warned of this 
danger of going to a phantasmagoric, illusionary hell or heaven. The 
guide (or guru) explains that in this bodiless state all our thoughts 
and feelings seem to take concrete form. Thoughts are things. The 
dead person sees these things and, unless helped, he gets trapped in 
them. So he is continuously told that these apparitions are only 
hallucinations— are only a projection of his consciousness— and that 
he. must go forward without becoming involved in them, without repul- 
sion or attraction; that he must realize that they arc only distractions 
which he himself has created. Continuously repeated is the admonition: 
"Oh, Nobly Born! Let not thy mind be distracted." Similarly, the first 
and last word in Island is ''Attention." It is the first word the distracted, 
wounded traveler from the West-thc man who would not take yes 
for an answer— hears on that Island, sung by the mynah bird; a charm- 
ing way the novelist synthesizes in a single word an ancient vital 
message to all: Attention. 

ALDOUS (continuing): But there is an equivalent of some kind which 
has to be caught hold of. Otherwise, the world about you is thin 
and becomes— what is the word— Pretds, the world of the restless 
ghosts. One goes to hell and then in desperation one has to rush 
back and get another body. 

LAURA: To hold on again? 

ALDOUS: To hold on again. Well, this is obviously the best thing, if 
one hasn't got the ultimate best. But clearly they all have said that 
there is something which is the equivalent— again in this extraordinary 
doctrine of Christianity, the resurrection of the body, and ultimately 
immortality will have something like the body attached to it. I don't 
know what it means, but obviously one can't attach any ordinary 
meaning to it. But one sees exactly what they are after— some idea 

228 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

that somehow we have to get an equivalent on a higher level of this 
anchorage which space and time and gravitation give us. And which 
can be achieved. One has, as I say, in this strange experience, one has 
the sense that there is this fundamental sanity in spite of all the dis- 
traction and preposterous nonsense which is going on— and which is 
irrelevant to oneself— which has nothing to do, in a strange way, al- 
though it may seem very, very important. {Silence, them) 

It is very important, if one can, while it is happening, if one can see 
the outer-appearance of it. It is obviously important to look after one's 
affairs in a sensible way and see their importance, in a silly way, but 
if one can, through all this, see this other level of importance, in the 
light of which a lot of activities will have to be cut down. There will 
seem to be absolutely no point in undertaking them— although a great 
many have to be undertaken, but they will be undertaken in a new 
kind of way— with a kind of detachment, and yet with a doing things 
to one's limit. This is again one of the paradoxes: to work to the limit 
to succeed in what you are doing, and at the same time to be detached 
from it— if you don't succeed, well, that's too bad— if you do succeed— 
tant mieux— you don't have to gloat over it. This is the whole story of 
the Bhagavad-Gita : somehow to do everything with passion but with 
LAURA: Passion and detachment. . . . 

Passion and detachment. Years ago, before I had ever heard of these 
philosophies, with what passion I had longed for detachment! That 
was the ideal I had set for m3'self as a musician; to play with all I had, 
to burn with passion, yet maintain a crystalline purity and detachment 
in technical and stylistical perfection. And in these recent years of 
psychological work and exploration, I had seen, in my everyday life 
and work, in me and outside of me, all kinds and degrees of passion 
only or of detachment only— but how rarely the fusion of the two! 

In the Bhagavad-Gita the hero Arjuna is a great warrior, and Krishna, 
or Incarnation of the Supreme Spirit, is his guide. Arjuna is told that 
he must fight with all his strength and valor— and yet must be de- 
tached from the fight. 

If we look inside and around, we can see many ways in which this 
battle is carried on, three of which are the most conspicuous. One is 
the way of the fighter, who, being inwardly discontented, resentful, 
and punitive, is chemically and psychologically compelled to fight. He 
has to be contrary; he must give and take no for an answer even if— 
sometimes especially ii—yes is to his advantage. He is fighting an outer 
enemy who often is only a reflected shadow of the inner one; even 
\\'hen the outer enemy is conquered, the inner one is only temporarily 
appeased. Then there is another kind of fighter: the man who is easily 
discouraged, who remains passive, rather than risk the possibility of 

Love and Work ( ( 229 

defeat; overcautious and suspicious, he deceives himself rather than 
face problems and decisions. There is still another kind of fighter, the 
one of which Krishna speaks. We encounter this type also— but how 
rarely! He is one that fights only after an ethical evaluation of the 
issue and of his own original motives. Regardless of victory or defeat, 
an inner peace is there. This warrior, liberated from subconscious 
demons, clear-minded and controlled, may appear on the outside relent- 
less, determined, even furious; inwardly, he is invulnerably harmonious. 
In the Gita these three types of men are so described: 

The doer without desire. 

Who does not boast of his deed. 

Who is ardent, enduring, 

Untouched by triumph, 

In failure untroubled: 

He is a man of sattwa [the energy of inspiration]. 

The doer with desire, 

Hot for the prize of vainglory, 

Brutal, greedy and foul 

In triumph too quick to rejoice. 

In failure despairing: 

He is a man of rajas [the energy of action]. 

The indifferent doer 

Whose heart is not in his deed, 

Stupid and stubborn, 

A cheat, and malicious, 

Tlie idle lover of delay, 

Easily dejected: 

He is a man of tamas [the energy of inertia] .^ 

Aldous was speaking of the man who fights with the energy of in- 
spiration (sattwa). 

aldous: One can see what it is— he is not involved even though he is 
involved up to the limit. What part of him is not involved? But it's 
no good trying to make an analysis because, as usual, it is a paradox 
and a mystery. 

LAURA: But even if . . . 

aldous: One begins to understand it, that that is the main problem. 

^The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita. Translated by Swami Prabhavananda and 
Christopher Isherwood, with an introduction by Aldous Huxley (New York: New 
American Library, 1954). 

230 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

There were many pauses in this conversation. Most of the words 
were formulated slowly, in an effort to clarify realities to which most 
of us are unaccustomed. Aldous had been speaking quietly and 
thoughtfully. In spite of the poor recording, which is often blurred by 
noises of cars and static, one can feel that the atmosphere is impreg- 
nated with thought and discoveries. Now there is a pause, then a few 
noises— we are taking Kleenex out of a box. Then: 

aldous: My nose is running. (Now the mood and the voice change 
completely, become light, and there is amused laughter in Aldous's 
voice.) A very good reminder that the greatest philosophy is connected 
inextricably with running noses. One of the things they should have 
talked about in the Gospel. Obviously he was on a mountain— the 
Sermon of the Mount— it must have been very breezy and cold up 
there. Probably his nose did run. 

There is no iconoclastic intention in the voice— only a chuckling and 
a reaffirmation of Aldous's conviction that everything is connected 
with everything else and that we should not forget it; no matter on 
what high plane of spirituality we dwell we are still bound by the laws 
of nature. I am sure also that Aldous realized at that moment that he 
had been speaking gravely for quite a while— it was natural for him, 
thank heaven, to lighten gravity with charm and humor. 

LAURA (after a silence): But it is very difficult. How does one prepare 
for death? All of this seems, as you say, to make it very. . . . 

ALDOUS: I think that the only way one can prepare for death . . . you 
realize that, well, after all, all your psychotherapy is in a sense a 
preparation for death inasmuch as }0u die to these memories which 
are allowed to haunt you as though they were in the present: "Let 
the dead bury their dead." Obviously, the completely healthy way 
to live is "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." 

Aldous often quoted these words, \\hich were Christ's way of say- 
ing, "Live here and now." He suggested I put this quotation in my 
recipe, "Lay the Ghost," which deals with the problem of haunting 
emotional memories that interfere with our present. He felt that 
Christ's saying to the man who wanted to bury his father, "Follow me, 
and let the dead bury him," was about as strong a way as there was to 
say, "Live here and now." One should not worry about the past or the 
future, since each day has enough problems. Tliat principle he also 
lived— either he could do something here and now about a problem 
o' he would not permit it to interfere with here and now. 

Love and Work ( ( 231 

ALDOUS: You accept this without being obsessed by what is in the past 
—you die to it. Preparation for ultimate death is to be aware that your 
highest and most intense form of life is accompanied by, and con- 
ditional upon, a series of small deaths all the time. We have to be 
dying to these obsessive memories. I mean, again the paradox is to 
be able to remember with extreme clarity, but not to be haunted. 

Aldous is speaking here of the difference between the two memories, 
the informational memory and the emotional memory. The informa- 
tional memory is essential to us, to carry on our daily life. The emo- 
tional memory has a more subtle, powerful, and, at times, all-pervading 
quality; especially when unconscious, it can haunt us with ghosts of 
our emotional past, robbing us of the energy and attention we need 
here and now. 

LAURA: But even without the memories there is this composite figure 
that we are— the composition of so many characters— and if they 
don't have something to meet on, a common ground, which is the 
body, where do they meet? 

aldous: Well, they have to meet, I suppose, in some— what is called 
quote "the Spirit," as we meet normally on this unconscious-subcon- 
scious level. And then they also meet on the superconscious level, 
which, of course, completely contains the unconscious. (Pause.) 
And this would be certainly the teaching of the Bardos— these thou- 
sand figures— they can either meet in the wrong way which is by 
... to the point of distraction through the ice cube or they can 
meet through the recognition of the ultimate in the spirit, on that 

This is a repetition of what Aldous said in the beginning: either 
there is a meeting in that terrifying confusion of thoughts and emo- 
tions whirling around without the safety of a common ground which 
is the body; or there is meeting in awareness of that fundamental 
sanity-of-the-world which he felt so strongly. 

ALDOUS : And this is why they all say you have to work rather hard, and 
try and realize this fact— and one of the ways of realizing it is— 
after all, in that little "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones"''— the preparation is 
through these exercises in consciousness. This sort of leads on to 
the third layer of consciousness. 

LAURA: But then in between the two extremes there is so much lee- 
way. . . . 

5 Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Rutland: Tuttle, 1957) 

232 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

ALDOus:Tliere are too many ways of going wrong. I mean, the best-in- 
tentioned people go wrong. (Long silence.) I will look at this Rem- 

On the tape, one hears confused noises. Aldous was looking at art 
books— Rembrandt was to him the greatest of all painters. My voice is 
heard, from the other room, speaking on the phone to Paula, Ginny's 
daughter, then eleven years old, who was not in school that day. Then 
we again hear Aldous's voice. Since the fire we had been living with 
Ginny and her two children, and this close association made the prob- 
lem of education very concrete to Aldous. He was seeing every day the 
difficulty of educating two children in a large city like Los Angeles. The 
problem had so many facets; he brought up one in this conversation. 

ALDOUS: If she wants us, darling, we can go back there. Is she alone? 
She probably doesn't want to be alone. Maybe we should go. (Si- 
lence.) She said she wanted to write a story so I gave her a pen. 
(Another silence.) When I think of the admirable thing which was 
in my little boys' school. 

LAURA: Yes? A routine? 

aldous: Well, I mean we had this carpenter's shop. We could always 
spend our spare time there when we wanted to, and this was com- 
pulsory two or three hours a week. There was this carpenter who 
was the school handy man, but he was a trained carpenter. We went 
through all the exercises which the apprentice had to learn— almost 
up to the master work. This is what "masterpiece" means: the ap- 
prentice learns all the things, and finally he produces his final exami- 
nation as Ph.D. 

LAURA: Really? 

aldous: In the case of a carpenter there would be all the different kinds 
of mortices, dovetail, and so on— various things joined together. 

LAURA: Which is very difficult. 

aldous: Very difficult. You see, all the surfaces would be absolutely 
planed— you will have learned to plane absolutely even. 

LAURA: Did you do that? 

aldous: Yes. Yes, we went right through the different kinds of mortices, 
dovetail, and so on— just as a medieval apprentice would have done. 

LAURA: Well, but .... 

aldous: Then when we had done all this sort of exercise, then we were 
allowed to do what we wanted— to make a sledge or a box or a book- 
case—and we did it— but always up to the very highest standards. I 
mean, there was absolutely no nonsense of these things being nailed 
together; these things were always done dovetailed. 

LAURA: But here they don't do that— even professional carpenters. 

Love and Work ( ( 233 

ALDOUS: Good cabinet work is still done in this way, but of course nowa- 
days it isn't really— I mean, it's quite different. 

LAURA: But in this school they don't do anything: they just stay there 
all afternoon just running around. 

ALDOUS : Well, one of the problems is wages. I mean, there was this ex- 
cellent man who did all the odd jobs around the school, but who was 
an old-time artisan who got through all this himself. But he was a 
very shrewd man: it was a pleasure to be with him. And he could 
talk; and he had delightful phrases— like when he sharpened a tool 
he said, "Now it is sharp enough to cut off a dead mouse's whiskers 
without its waking up." But all that is gone now. But what shouldn't 
have gone is the perfectly sensible thing of providing boys with some- 
thing to do. 

LAURA: Shall I make us soup? Would you like some soup? 

ALDOUS : Yes, that would be nice. 

Chapter 36 



Huxley maintained an even busier lecturing schedule this yeoTy 
despite the recurrence of cancer which necessitated minor surgery 
and further radiation treatments. Besides his talks at universities, he 
spoke at a conference on hypnosis, to physicists at Los Alamos, to 
the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and to the World 
Academy of Arts and Science in Belgium. He also found time to 
visit the Apollo Space Center in Los Angeles, and his boyhood 
home in Surrey. The Royal Society of Literature honored him 
with the title of Companion in Literature, a title also held by 
Churchill, Maugham and Masefield, who were alive at that time. 
Island was published; and he began what was to be his last book. 
In his letters Huxley discusses the nature of the "unmediated ex- 
perience" of psychedelics, the Tantric use of LSD and mushrooms, 
and responds to the Maharaja of Kashmir, who after reading Island 
writes to ask where he might obtain psychedelic drugs. He is de- 
scribed by Claire Nicolas White in Bedford (p. 694) as reading 
aloud from The Doors of Perception to his niece's children in their 
Long Island home while they ''listened spell-bound, and one of 
them drew his portrait!' 

TO DR. TIMOTHY LEAKY [smith 888] 

2^^^ Hillegass, 
Berkeley 4, Cat 
11 February, 1962 
Dear Tim, 

I forgot, in my last letter, to answer your question about Tantra. 
Tliere are enormous books on the subject by "Arthur Avalon" (Sir 

Letters (( 235 

John Woodroffe), which one can dip into with some profit. Then 
there is a chapter on it in Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophies of India. The 
fullest scholarly treatment, on a manageable scale, is in Mircea Eliade's 
various books on Yoga. See also Conze's Buddhist Texts. As far as one 
can understand it, Tantra seems to be a strange mixture of supersti- 
tion and magic with sublime philosophy and acute philosophical in- 
sights. There is an endless amount of ritual and word-magic. But the 
basic ideal seems to me the highest possible ideal— enlightenment, not 
apart from the world (as with the Vedantists and the Nirvana-addicts 
of the Hinayana School of Buddhists) but within the world, through 
the world, by means of the ordinary processes of living. Tantra teaches 
a yoga of sex, a yoga of eating (even eating forbidden foods and drink- 
ing forbidden drinks). The sacramentalizing of common life, so that 
every event may become a means whereby enlightenment can be real- 
ized, is achieved, essentially, through constant awareness. This is the 
ultimate yoga— being aware, conscious even of the unconscious— on 
every level from the physiological to the spiritual. In this context see 
the list of 112 exercises in awareness, extracted from a Tantril text and 
printed at the end of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones [by Paul Reps] (now in 
paperback). The whole of "Gestalt Tlierapy" is anticipated in these 
exercises— and the therapy is not merely for the abnormal, it is above 
all a therapy for the much graver sickness of insensitiveness and ignor- 
ance which we call "normality" or "mental health." LSD and the 
mushrooms should be used, it seems to me, in context of this basic 
Tantric idea of the yoga of total awareness, leading to enlightenment 
within the world of everyday experience— which of course becomes the 
world of miracle and beauty and divine mystery when experience is 
what it always ought to be. 


TO REID GARDNER [smith 902] 

At 3 1 Pond Street, 
Hampstead, N.W. 3 
18 September, 1962 
Dear Mr. Gardner^ 

... I did not know that [Robert] Graves had written on psilocybin, 
and must read his article.^ In experiments with LSD and psilocybin 

1 Graves wrote of his psychedelic drug experiences in The Atlantic Monthly, and 
in his book Food for Centaurs (1960). 

236 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

subsequent to the mescalin experience described in Doors of Percep- 
tion, I have known that sense of affectionate solidarity with the people 
around me, and with the universe at large— also the sense of the world's 
fundamental All Rightness, in spite of pain, death and bereavement. 
This All Rightness can be expressed in words or other symbols— but its 
nature cannot be conveyed to anyone who had not gone through the 
unmediated experience. And can the experience be induced by even the 
most transportingly poetical words? I have never found that it could 
be so induced— at the most, only prepared for. (Incidentally, mescalin, 
LSD and psilocybin all produce a state of affairs in which verbalizing 
and conceptualizing are in some sort by-passed. One can talk about 
the experience— but always with the knowledge that "the rest is si- 
When I am back in California, I hope you will come and see me. 

Aldous Huxley 


62^^ Mulholland Highway, 
Los Angeles 28, California 
22 December, 1962 
Your Highness, 

Thank you for your kind letter. Island is a kind of pragmatic dream 
—a fantasy with detailed and (conceivably) practical instructions for 
making the imagined and desirable harmonization of European and 
Indian insights become a fact. But alas, in spite of these pragmatic 
aspects, the book still remains a dream— far removed (as I sadly made 
clear in the final paragraphs of the story) from our present reality. And 
yet, if we weren't all so busy trying to do something else, we could, I 
believe, make this world a place fit for fully human beings to live in. 

As for the "psychedelic" drugs, LSD, mescalin, psilocybin— these are 
in short supply and available only to research \\'orkers. I have no idea 
whether any research in this area is being carried on in one of the 

Letters (( 237 

Indian Universities. You could find out by writing to the Sandoz Com- 
pany, Basel, Switzerland (the manufacturers of LSD and psilocybin). 
Another possibility:— my friend Dr. Timothy Leary, Department of 
Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A. is conduct- 
ing research on a large scale. It is possible that he might like to have 
an opportunity of working with the psychodelics in relation to subjects 
brought up within another culture than his own. If you could put a 
house at his disposal for a few weeks he might like to come to India 
and make this socio-psychological experiment. And if and when I come 
again to your country I will certainly remember your kind invitation. 

Mdous Huxley 

Chapter 37 




Huxley's last novel— the crowning work of his final decade— took 
him five years to write. For perhaps the only time in his writing 
career he questioned his creative ability to successfully "poetize 
and dramatize the intellectual material and create a work which 
would he simultaneously funny, tragic, lyrical and profound!' 
{letter to Matthew Huxley, 20 Aug. 1959J. To Osmond (22 June 
1958) he described the task as "trying to imagine what could be 
done to create a good society, dedicated to eliciting all the latent 
powers and gifts of individuals. . . ." He worked into the book 
some of Laura's psychotherapy techniques. Island is dedicated to 
her; The Doors of Perception was dedicated to Maria; as Sybille 
Bedford notes, these are the only books among the nearly fifty 
Aldous published which bear dedications. 

The Islanders— the Palanese—use a drug called moksha: a kind 
of perfected psychedelic in the form of a cultivated yellow mush- 
room growing in the mountains. The substance is also called 
"moksha-medicine" and provides "the full-blown mystical experi- 
ence!' Unlike the soma of Brave New World, moksha is not for 
escapists: a major ethic of the Islanders is "paying attention!' In 
a rite-of-passage ceremony in which the drug is given to Palanese 
youth, the guide reveals its essential message: "Liberation . . . the 
ending of sorroM', ceasing to be what you ignorantly think you are 
and becoming what you are in fact. For a little while, thanks to 
the moksha.-me dicine, you will know what it's like to be what in 
fact you are, what in fact you always have been." 

Moksha (( 239 

"Sex is different here," Mumgan insisted. 

"Because of the yoga of love?" Will asked, remembering the Httle 
nurse's rapturous face. 

The boy nodded. "They've got something that makes them think 
they're perfectly happy, and they don't want anything else." 

"What a blessed state!" 

"There's nothing blessed about it," Murugan snapped. "It's just 
stupid and disgusting. No progress, only sex, sex, sex. And of course that 
beastly dope they're all given." 

"Dope?" Will repeated in some astonishment. Dope in a place where 
Susila had said there were no addicts? "What kind of dope?" 

"It's made out of toadstools. Toadstoohr He spoke in a comical 
caricature of the Rani's vibrant tone of outraged spirituality. 

"Those lovely red toadstools that gnomes used to sit on?" 

"No, these are yellow. People used to go out and collect them in 
the mountains. Nowadays the things are grown in special fungus beds 
at the High Altitude Experimental Station. Scientifically cultivated 
dope. Pretty, isn't it?" 

A door slammed and there was a sound of voices, of footsteps ap- 
proaching along a corridor. Abruptly, the indignant spirit of the Rani 
took flight, and Murugan was once again the conscience-stiricken school- 
boy furtively trying to cover up his delinquencies. In a trice Elementary 
Ecology had taken the place of Sears, Roebuck, and the suspiciously 
bulging briefcase was under the table. A moment later, stripped to the 
waist and shining like oiled bronze with the sweat of labor in the 
noonday sun, Vijaya came striding into the room. Behind him came 
Dr. Robert. With the air of a model student, interrupted in the midst 
of his reading by trespassers from the frivolous outside world, Murugan 
looked up from his book. Amused, Will threw himself at once whole- 
heartedly into the part that had been assigned to him. 

"It was I who got here too early," he said in response to Vijaya's 
apologies for their being so late. "With the result that our young 
friend here hasn't been able to get on with his lessons. We've been 
talking our heads off." 

"What about?" Dr. Robert asked. 

"Everything. Cabbages, kings, motor scooters, pendulous abdomens. 
And when you came in, we'd just embarked on toadstools. Murugan 
was telling me about the fungi that are used here as a source of dope." 

"What's in a name?" said Dr. Robert, with a laugh. "Answer, prac- 
tically everything. Having had the misfortune to be brought up in 
Europe, Murugan calls it dope and feels about it all the disapproval 
that, by conditioned reflex, the dirty word evokes. We, on the contrary, 
give the stuff good names— the 7710/^s/id-medicine, the reality revealer, 

240 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

the truth-and-beauty pill. And we know, by direct experience, that the 
good names are deserved. Whereas our young friend here has no first- 
hand knowledge of the stuff and can't be persuaded even to give it a 
try. For him, it's dope and dope is something that, by definition, no 
decent person ever indulges in." 

"What does His Highness say to that?" Will asked. 

Murugan shook his head. "All it gives you is a lot of illusions," he 
muttered. "Why should I go out of my way to be made a fool of?" 

"\Vliy indeed?" said Vijaya with good-humored irony. "Seeing that, 
in your normal condition, you alone of the human race are never made 
a fool of and never have illusions about anything!" 

"I never said that," Murugan protested. "All I mean is that I don't 
want any of your false samadhi." 

"How do you know it's false?" Dr. Robert enquired. 

"Because the real thing only comes to people after years and years 
of meditation and tapas and . . . well, you know— not going with 

"Murugan," Vijaya explained to Will, "is one of the Puritans. He's 
outraged by the fact that, with four hundred milligrams of moksha- 
medicine in their bloodstreams, even beginners— yes, and even boys 
and girls who make love together— can catch a glimpse of the world 
as it looks to someone who has been liberated from his bondage to the 

"But it isn't real," Murugan insisted. 

"Not real!" Dr. Robert repeated. "You might as well say that the 
experience of feeling well isn't real." 

"You're begging the question," Will objected. "An experience can 
be real in relation to something going on inside your skull but com- 
pletely irrelevant to anything outside." 

"Of course," Dr. Robert agreed. 

"Do you know what goes on inside your skull, when you've taken 
a dose of the mushroom?" 

"We know a little." 

"And we're trying all the time to find out more," Vijaya added. 

"For example," said Dr. Robert, "we've found that the people whose 
EEG doesn't show any alpha-wave activity when they're relaxed aren't 
likely to respond significantly to the moksha-medicinG. That means 
that, for about fifteen per cent of the population, we have to find other 
approaches to liberation." 

"Another thing we're just beginning to understand," said Vijaya, "is 
the neurological correlate of these experiences. Wliat's happening in 
the brain when you're having a vision? And what's happening when 
you pass from a premystical to a genuinely mystical state of mind?" 

Moksha ( ( 241 

"Do you know?" Will asked. 

" 'Know' is a big word. Let's say we're in a position to make some 
plausible guesses. Angels and New Jerusalems and Madonnas and 
Future Buddhas— they're all related to some kind of unusual stimula- 
tion of the brain areas of primary projection— the visual cortex, for 
example. Just how the 7720^s/i£Z-medicine produces those unusual stimuli 
we haven't yet found out. The important fact is that, somehow or 
other, it does produce them. And somehow or other, it also does some- 
thing unusual to the silent areas of the brain, the areas not specifically 
concerned with perceiving, or moving, or feeling." 

"And how do the silent areas respond?" Will inquired. 

"Let's start with what they don't respond with. They don't respond 
with visions or auditions, they don't respond with telepathy or clair- 
voyance or any other kind of parapsychological performance. None of 
that amusing premystical stuff. Their response is the full-blown mystical 
experience. You know— One in all and All in one. The basic experi- 
ence with its corollaries— boundless compassion, fathomless mystery 
and meaning." 

"Not to mention joy," said Dr. Robert, "inexpressible joy." 

"And the whole caboodle is inside your skull," said Will. "Strictly 
private. No reference to any external fact except a toadstool." 

"Not real," Murugan chimed in. "Tliat's exactly what I was trying to 

"You're assuming," said Dr. Robert, "that the brain produces con- 
sciousness. I'm assuming that it transmits consciousness. And my ex- 
planation is no more farfetched than yours. How on earth can a set of 
events belonging to one order be experienced as a set of events belong- 
ing to an entirely different and incommensurable order? Nobody has 
the faintest idea. All one can do is to accept the facts and concoct 
hypotheses. And one h}pothesis is just about as good, philosophically 
speaking, as another. You say that the 77zo^s/zcz-medicine does some- 
thing to the silent areas of the brain which causes them to produce a 
set of subjective events to which people have given the name 'mystical 
experience.' I say that the 7rzo/>:s/7c7-medicine does something to the 
silent areas of the brain which opens some kind of neurological sluice 
and so allows a larger volume of Mind with a large 'M' to flow into 
your mind with a small 'm.' You can't demonstrate the truth of your 
hypothesis, and I can't demonstrate the truth of mine. And even if 
you could prove that I'm wrong, would it make any practical difference?" 

"I'd have thought it would make all the difference," said Will. 

"Do you like music?" Dr. Robert asked. 

"More than most things." 

"And what, may I ask, does Mozart's G-Minor Quintet refer to? 

242 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

Does it refer to Allah? Or Tao? Or the second person of the Trinity? 
Or the Atman-Brahnian?" 

Will laughed. "Lef s hope not." 

"But that doesn't make the experience of the G-Minor Quintet any 
less rewarding. Well, it's the same with the kind of experience that 
you get with the inoksha-mediciney or through prayer and fasting and 
spiritual exercises. Even if it doesn't refer to anything outside itself, 
it's still the most important thing that ever happened to you. Like 
music, only incomparably more so. And if you give the experience a 
chance, if you're prepared to go along with it, the results are incom- 
parably more therapeutic and transforming. So maybe the whole thing 
does happen inside one's skull. Maybe it is private and there's no unitive 
knowledge of anything but one's own physiology. WTio cares? The fact 
remains that the experience can open one's eyes and make one blessed 
and transform one's whole life." There was a long silence. "Let me tell 
you something," he resumed, turning to Murugan. "Something I hadn't 
intended to talk about to anybody. But now I feel that perhaps I have 
a duty, a duty to the throne, a duty to Pala and all its people— an 
obligation to tell you about this very private experience. Perhaps the 
telling may help you to be a little more understanding about your 
country and its ways." He was silent for a moment; then in a quietly 
matter-of-fact tone, "I suppose you know about my wife," he went on. 

His face still averted, Murugan nodded. "I was sorry," he mumbled, 
"to hear she was so ill." 

"It's a matter of a few days now," said Dr. Robert. "Four or five at 
the most. But she's still perfectly lucid, perfectly conscious of what's 
happening to her. Yesterday she asked me if we could take the moksha- 
medicine together. We'd taken it together," he added parenthetically, 
"once or twice each year for the last thirty-seven years— ever since we 
decided to get married. And now once more— for the last time, the 
last, last time. There was a risk involved, because of the damage to the 
liver. But we decided it was a risk worth taking. And as it turned out, 
we were right. The moksha-medicinQ—the dope, as you prefer to call 
it— hardly upset her at all. All that happened to her was the mental 

He was silent, and Will suddenly became aware of the squeak and 
scrabble of caged rats and, through the open window, the babel of 
tropical life and the call of a distant mynah bird. "Here and now, boys. 
Here and now . . ." 

"You're like that mynah," said Dr. Robert at last. "Trained to repeat 
words you don't understand or know the reason for, 'It isn't real. It 
isn't real.' But if you'd experienced what Lakshmi and I went through 
yesterday you'd know better. You'd know it was much more jeal than 

Moksha (( 243 

what you call reality. More real than what you're thinking and feeling 
at this moment. More real than the world before your eyes. But not 
real is what you've been taught to say. Not real, not real." Dr. Robert 
laid a hand affectionately on the boy's shoulder. "You've been told 
that we're just a set of self-indulgent dope takers, wallowing in illusions 
and false samadhis. Listen, Murugan— forget all the bad language that's 
been pumped into you. Forget it at least to the point of making a single 
experiment. Take four hundred milligrams of moksha-medicme and 
find out for yourself what it does, what it can tell you about your own 
nature, about this strange world you've got to live in, learn in, suffer 
in, and finally die in. Yes, even you will have to die one day— maybe 
fifty years from now, maybe tomorrow. Who knows? But it's going to 
happen, and one's a fool if one doesn't prepare for it." He turned to 
Will. "Would you like to come along while we take our shower and 
get into some clothes?" 

Chapter 38 



The last year of Huxlefs life began with the completion of Litera- 
ture and Science, published in September. Recurrence of cancer 
and renewed radiation therapy forced him to cancel some lectures, 
but he managed to travel once more to Europe for a meeting of 
the World Academy of Arts and Science, for whom he planned to 
edit a volume on human resources with Osmond. He gave his 
thoughts on differences between individual and group psychedelic 
experience to the editor of Psychedelic Review, and passed on 
Osmond's warning about bootlegged LSD to Leary at Harvard, to 
whom he responded favorably on the idea of a training center 
devoted to consciousness expansion (The Castalia Foundation was 
founded in Millbrook, N.Y. in ig6^). 

Huxley grew progressively weaker; his last months were spent at 
home working on what was to be his last article: "Shakespeare and 
Religion." On the final page Huxley wrote: "We must continually 
be on the watch for ways in which we may enlarge our conscious- 

TO DR. HUMPHRY OSMOND [smith 915] 

62^^ Mulholland, 
LA. 28, Cal. 
7 January, 1963 
Dear Humphry, 

Thank you for your letter. A good example of what happens to a 
man when he gets too much inspiration is provided by Christopher 
Smart. "J^tji^^te Agno" is the product of an acute phase of his mental 

Letters (( 245 

illness, when he had no control over his pre-conscious mind and its 
torrent of images, notions, words and rhythms. David and the "Nativ- 
ity" poem were written when he was crazy enough to forget that he 
was a product of 18th century conditioning, but not so crazy as to be 
unable to organize his automatic writing artistically. And then there 
are the boring, conventional poems that he produced when he was too 
sane, too well adjusted to the 18th century. Too much and too frequent 
LSD would probably be fatal to art— as fatal as no LSD or none of its 
spontaneously occurring equivalent. 

Let me have your address in Princeton so that I may contact you 
there if and when I go to the not-so-gorgeous East. 

My love to Jane and the children. 

Yours affectionately^ 


62^^ Mulholland 
L.A. 28, Cal 
3 March, 1963 
Dear Mr. Lee: 

Tliank you for your letter and invitation to. contribute an article to 
your review. At the moment I cannot undertake any new commit- 
ments; for I have too much to do as it is. 

I didn't see Buber's article for I don't read the Review of Metaphysics 
and the relevant issue was not sent to me. I have written about the 
psychodelics several times since the publication of The Doors of Per- 
ception^ which describes a first and somewhat limited experience with 

As for privacy— all immediate experience is strictly private. Nobody 
can experience another's pain or pleasure or way of looking at the world. 
All one can experience is a set of clues and symbols, through which, at 
one or more removes, one may infer the experience of another person. 
On the non-verbal level there is either the loneliness of the isolated ego, 
or the Aloneness of the mind that has broken out of its prison of 
cultural conditioning and egotism and is as fully receptive to given 
reality, on every level, as it is possible for the human creature to be. I 
have had hardly any experience of psychodelics in a group, but presume 

^ Co-editor of The Psychedelic Revie\v. Not in Smitli. 

246 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visional}' Experience 

that, when there is a good rapport, this is due to the fact that the chemi- 
cal has transformed a group of insulated lonelinesses into a group of 
open & receptive Alonenesses. 

Aldous Huxley 

TO DR. TIMOTHY LEAKY [smith 929] 

6233 Mulholland, 
LA. 28, Cal. 
20 July, ig6^ 
Dear Tim, 

Thank you for your letters. I think the idea of a school is excellent, 
for what needs exploring, more than anything else, is the problem of 
fruitfully relating what Wordsworth calls "wise passiveness" to wise 
activity— receptivity and immediate experience to concept-making and 
the projection upon experience of intelligible order. How do we make 
the best of both the worlds described in Wordsworth's "Expostulation 
and Reply" and "The Tables Turned"? That is what has to be dis- 
covered. And one should make use of all the available resources— the 
best methods of formal teaching and also LSD, hypnosis (used, among 
other things, to help people to re-enter the LSD state without having 
recourse to a chemical), time distortion (to speed up the learning 
process), auto-conditioning for control of autonomic processes and 
heightening of physical and psychological resistance to disease and 
trauma etc etc. . . . 

Ever yours, 

Chapter 39 


Culture and the Individual 


In oifering this essay to the editors of the first popular anthology 
on LSD, Huxley "deliberately . . . treated in more general terms 
the whole problem of the individual's relation to his culture— a 
problem in whose solution the psychodelics can undoubtedly play 
their part" (Letter to T. Leary, 3 June 1963). The value of psy- 
chedelic substances lies in "potentiating [an individual's] non-ver- 
bal education," allowing him to transcend his social conditioning 
and consequently bring about necessary cultural reforms. Huxley 
calls for "empirical . . . large-scale experiment" in the limited 
time left to us. 

BETWEEN CULTURE and the individual the relationship is, and always 
has been, strangely ambivalent. We are at once the beneficiaries of 
our culture and its victims. Without culture, and without that precon- 
dition of all culture, language, man would be no more than another 
species of baboon. It is to language and culture that we owe our human- 
ity. And "\Vliat a piece of work is a man!" says Hamlet: "How noble 
in reason! how infinite in faculties! ... in action how like an angel! in 
apprehension, how like a god!" But, alas, in the intervals of being 
noble, rational and potentially infinite, 

man, proud man. 
Dressed in a little brief authority. 
Most ignorant of what he is most assured, 
His glassy essence, like an angry ape. 
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven 
As make the angels weep. 

248 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

Genius and angry ape, player of fantastic tricks and godlike reasoner 
—in all these roles individuals are the products of a language and a 
culture. Working on the twelve or thirteen billion neurons of a human 
brain, language and culture have given us law, science, ethics, phi- 
losophy; have made possible all the achievements of talent and of 
sanctity. They have also given us fanaticism, superstition and dogmatic 
bumptiousness; nationalistic idolatry and mass murder in the name of 
God; rabble-rousing propaganda and organized lying. And, along with 
the salt of the earth, they have given us, generation after generation, 
countless millions of hypnotized conformists, the predestined victims 
of power-hungry rulers who are themselves the victims of all that is 
most senseless and inhuman in their cultural tradition. 

Thanks to language and culture, human behavior can be incom- 
parably more intelhgent, more original, creative and flexible than the 
behavior of animals, whose brains are too small to accommodate the 
number of neurons necessary for the invention of language and the 
transmission of accumulated knowledge. But, thanks again to language 
and culture, human beings often behave with a stupidity, a lack of 
realism, a total inappropriateness, of which animals are incapable. 

Trobriand Islander or IBostonian, Sicilian Catholic or Japanese Bud- 
dhist, each of us is born into some culture and passes his life within 
its confines. Between every human consciousness and the rest of the 
world stands an invisible fence, a network of traditional thinking- 
and-feeling patterns, of secondhand notions that have turned into 
axioms, of ancient slogans revered as divine revelations. What we 
see through the meshes of this net is never, of course, the unknowable 
"thing in itself." It is not even, in most cases, the thing as it impinges 
upon our senses and as our organism spontaneously reacts to it. What 
we ordinarily take in and respond to is a curious mixture of im- 
mediate experience with culturally conditioned symbol, of sense 
impressions with preconceived ideas about the nature of things. And 
by most people the symbolic elements in this cocktail of awareness 
are felt to be more important than the elements contributed by im- 
mediate experience. Inevitably so, for, to those who accept their 
culture totally and uncritically, words in the familiar language do not 
stand (however inadequately) for things. On the contrary, things 
stand for familiar words. Each unique event of their ongoing life is 
instantly and automatically classified as yet another concrete illustra- 
tion of one of the verbalized, culture-hallowed abstractions drummed 
into their heads by childhood conditioning. 

It goes without saying that many of the ideas handed down to us 
by the transmitters of culture are eminently sensible and realistic. 
(If they were not, the human species would now be extinct.) But, 

Culture and thQ Individual ( ( 249 

along with these useful concepts, every culture hands down a stock of 
unrealistic notions, some of which never made any sense, while others 
may once have possessed survival value, but have now, in the changed 
and changing circumstances of ongoing history, become completely 
irrelevant. Since human beings respond to symbols as promptly and 
unequivocally as they respond to the stimuli of unmediated experience, 
and since most of them naively believe that culture-hallowed words 
about things are as real as, or even realer than their perceptions of 
the things themselves, these outdated or intrinsically nonsensical notions 
do enormous harm. Thanks to the realistic ideas handed down by 
culture, mankind has survived and, in certain fields, progresses. But 
thanks to the pernicious nonsense drummed into every individual in 
the course of his acculturation, mankind, though surviving and pro- 
gressing, has always been in trouble. History is the record, among other 
things, of the fantastic and generally fiendish tricks played upon itself 
by culture-maddened humanity. And the hideous game goes on. 

What can, and what should, the individual do to improve his 
ironically equivocal relationship with the culture in which he finds 
himself embedded? How can he continue to enjoy the benefits of 
culture without, at the same time, being stupefied or frenziedly 
intoxicated by its poisons? How can he become discriminatingly ac- 
culturated, rejecting what is silly or downright evil in his condition- 
ing, and holding fast to that which makes for humane and intelligent 

A culture cannot be discriminatingly accepted, much less be modified, 
except by persons who have seen through it— by persons who have cut 
holes in the confining stockade of verbalized symbols and so are 
able to look at the world and, by reflection, at themselves in a new 
and relatively unprejudiced way. Such persons are not merely bom; 
they must also be made. But how? 

In the field of formal education, what the would-be hole cutter 
needs is knowledge. Knowledge of the past and present history of 
cultures in all their fantastic variety, and knowledge about the nature 
and limitations, the uses and abuses, of language. A man who knows 
that there have been many cultures, and that each culture claims 
to be the best and truest of all, will find it hard to take too seriously 
the boastings and dogmatizings of his own tradition. Similarly, a man 
who knows how symbols are related to experience, and who practices 
the kind of linguistic self-control taught by the exponents of General 
Semantics, is unlikely to take too seriously the absurd or dangerous 
nonsense that, within every culture, passes for philosophy, practical 
wisdom and political argument. 

As a preparation for hole cutting, this kind of intellectual education 

250 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

is certainly valuable, but no less certainly insufficient. Training on 
the verbal level needs to be supplemented by training in wordless 
experiencing. We must learn how to be mentally silent, must cultivate 
the art of pure receptivity. 

To be silently receptive— how childishly simple that seems! But in 
fact, as we very soon discover, how difficult! The universe in which 
men pass their lives is the creation of what Indian philosophy calls 
Nama-Rupa, Name and Form. Reality is a continuum, a fathomlessly 
mysterious and infinite Something, whose outward aspect is what we 
call Matter and whose inwardness is what we call Mind. Language is 
a device for taking the mystery out of Reality and making it amenable 
to human comprehension and manipulation. Acculturated man breaks 
up the continuum, attaches labels to a few of the fragments, projects 
the labels into the outside world and thus creates for himself an all- 
too-human universe of separate objects, each of which is merely the 
embodiment of a name, a particular illustration of some traditional 
abstraction. What we perceive takes on the pattern of the conceptual 
lattice through which it has been filtered. Pure receptivity is difficult 
because man's normal waking consciousness is always culturally con- 
ditioned. But normal waking consciousness, as William James pointed 
out many years ago, "is but one type of consciousness, while all about 
it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms 
of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without 
suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a 
touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality 
which probably somewhere have their field of application and adapta- 
tion. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which 
leaves these forms of consciousness disregarded." 

Like the culture by which it is conditioned, normal waking con- 
sciousness is at once our best friend and a most dangerous enemy. 
It helps us to survive and make progress; but at the same time it 
prevents us from actualizing some of our most valuable potentialities 
and, on occasion, gets us into all kinds of trouble. To become fully 
human, man, proud man, the player of fantastic tricks, must learn 
to get out of his own way: only then will his infinite faculties and 
angelic apprehension get a chance of coming to the surface. In Blake's 
words, we must "cleanse the doors of perception"; for when the doors 
of perception are cleansed, "everything appears to man as it is— infinite." 
To normal waking consciousness things are the strictly finite and 
insulated embodiments of verbal labels. How can we break the habit 
of automatically imposing our prejudices and the memory of culture- 
hallowed words upon immediate experience? Answer: by the practice 
of pure receptivity and mental silence. Tliese will cleanse the doors 

Culture and the Individual (( 251 

of perception and, in the process, make possible the emergence of 
other than normal forms of consciousness— aesthetic consciousness, 
visionary consciousness, mystical consciousness. Tlianks to culture we 
are the heirs to vast accumulations of knowledge, to a priceless 
treasure of logical and scientific method, to thousands upon thousands 
of useful pieces of technological and organizational know-how. But 
the human mind-body possesses other sources of information, makes 
use of other types of reasoning, is gifted with an intrinsic wisdom 
that is independent of cultural conditioning. 

Wordsworth writes that "our meddling intellect [that part of the 
mind which uses language to take the mystery out of Reality] 
misshapes the beauteous forms of things: we murder to dissect." 
Needless to say, we cannot get along without our meddUng intellect. 
Verbalized conceptual thinking is indispensable. But even when they 
are used well, verbalized concepts misshape "the beauteous forms 
of things." And when (as happens so often) they are used badly, they 
misshape our lives by rationalizing ancient stupidities, by instigating 
mass murder, persecution and the playing of all the other fantastically 
ugly tricks that make the angels weep. Wise nonverbal passiveness 
is an antidote to unwise verbal activity and a necessary corrective to 
wise verbal activity. Verbalized concepts about experience need to be 
supplemented by direct, unmediated acquaintance with events as they 
present themselves to us. 

It is the old story of the letter and the spirit. The letter is necessary, 
but must never be taken too seriously, for, divorced from the spirit, 
it cramps and finally kills. As for the spirit, it "bloweth where it 
listeth" and, if we fail to consult the best cultural charts, we may be 
blown off our course and suflter shipwreck. At present most of us 
make the worst of both worlds. Ignoring the freely blowing winds 
of the spirit and relying on cultural maps which may be centuries 
out-of-date, we rush full speed ahead under the high-pressure steam of 
our own overweening self-confidence. The tickets we have sold our- 
selves assure us that our destination is some port in the Islands of 
the Blest. In fact it turns out, more often than not, to be Devil's 

Self-education on the nonverbal level is as old as civilization. "Be 
still and know that I am God"— for the visionaries and mystics of 
every time and every place, this has been the first and greatest 
of the commandments. Poets listen to their Muse and in the same 
way the visionary and the mystic wait upon inspiration in a state 
of wise passiveness, of dynamic vacuity. In the Western tradition 
this state is called "the prayer of simple regard." At the other end 
of the world it is described in terms that are psychological rather than 

252 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

thcistic. In mental silence we "look into our own Self-Nature/' we 
"hold fast to the Not-Tliought which lies in thought." we "become 
that which essentially we have always been," By wise activity we can 
acquire useful analytical knowledge about the world, knowledge that 
can be communicated by means of verbal symbols. In the state of 
wise passiveness we make possible the emergence of forms of con- 
sciousness other than the utilitarian consciousness of normal waking 
life. Useful analytical knowledge about the world is replaced by some 
kind of biologically inessential but spiritually enlightening acquaint- 
ance with the world. For example, there can be direct aesthetic 
acquaintance with the v^orld as beauty. Or there can be direct ac- 
quaintance with the intrinsic strangeness of existence, its wild 
implausibility. And finally there can be direct acquaintance with the 
world's unity. This immediate mystical experience of being at one 
with the fundamental Oneness that manifests itself in the infinite 
diversity of things and minds, can never be adequately expressed in 
words. Like visionary experience, the experience of the mystic can 
be talked about only from the outside. Verbal symbols can never 
convey its inwardness. 

It is through mental silence and the practice of wise passiveness 
that artists, visionaries and mystics have made themselves ready for 
the immediate experience of the world as beauty, as mystery and as 
unity. But silence and wise passiveness are not the only roads leading 
out of the all-too-human universe created by normal, culture-conditioned 
consciousness. In Expostulation and Reply, Wordsworth's bookish 
friend, Matthew, reproaches the poet because 

You look round on your Mother Earth, 
As if she for no purpose bore you; 
As if you were her first-born birth. 
And none have lived before youl 

From the point of view of normal waking consciousness, this is sheer 
intellectual delinquency. But it is what the artist, the visionary and 
the mystic must do and, in fact, have always done. "Look at a person, 
a landscape, any common object, as though you were seeing it for 
the first time." This is one of the exercises in immediate, unverbalized 
awareness prescribed in the ancient texts of Tantric Buddhism. 
Artists, visionaries and mystics refuse to be enslaved to the culture- 
conditioned habits of feeling, thought and action which their society 
regards as right and natural. Whenever this seems desirable, they 
deliberately refrain from projecting upon reality those hallowed word 
patterns with which all human minds are so copiously stocked. They 

Culture and the Individual ( ( 253 

know as well as anyone else that culture and the language in which 
any given culture is rooted, are absolutely necessary and that, without 
them, the individual would not be human. But more vividly than 
the rest of mankind they also know that, to be fully human, the 
individual must learn to decondition himself, must be able to cut 
holes in the fence of verbalized symbols that hems him in. 

In the exploration of the vast and mysterious world of human 
potentialities the great artists, visionaries and mystics have been trail- 
blazing pioneers. But where they have been, others can follow. 
Potentially, all of us are "infinite in faculties and like gods in apprehen- 
sion," Modes of consciousness different from normal waking conscious- 
ness are within the reach of anyone who knows how to apply the 
necessary stimuli. The universe in which a human being lives can be 
transfigured into a new creation. We have only to cut a hole in the 
fence and look around us with what the philosopher, Plotinus, de- 
scribes as "that other kind of seeing, which everyone has but few 
make use of." 

Within our current systems of education, training on the nonverbal 
level is meager in quantity and poor in quality. Moreover, its purpose, 
which is simply to help its recipients to be more "like gods in appre- 
hension" is neither clearly stated nor consistently pursued. We could 
and, most emphatically, we should do better in this very important 
field than we are doing now. The practical wisdom of earlier civiliza- 
tions and the findings of adventurous spirits within our own tradition 
and in our own time are freely available. With their aid a curriculum 
and a methodology of nonverbal training could be worked out without 
much difficulty. Unhappily most persons in authority have a vested 
interest in the maintenance of cultural fences. They frown upon hole 
cutting as subversive and dismiss Plotinus' "other kind of seeing" as 
a symptom of mental derangement. If an effective system of nonverbal 
education could be worked out, would the authorities allow it to be 
widely applied? It is an open question. 

From the nonverbal world of culturally uncontaminated conscious- 
ness we pass to the subverbal world of physiology and biochemistry. A 
human being is a temperament and a product of cultural conditioning; 
he is also, and primarily, an extremely complex and delicate bio- 
chemical system, whose inwardness, as the system changes from one 
state of equilibrium to another, is changing consciousness. It is 
because each one of us is a biochemical system that (according 
to Housman) 

Malt does more than Milton can 
To justify God's ways to man. 

254 ) ) ^^^^ ^ I Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

Beer achieves its theological triumphs because, in William James' words, 
"Drunkenness is the great exciter of the Yes function in man." And 
he adds that "It is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life 
that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognize 
as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the 
fleeting earlier phases of what, in its totality, is so degrading a 
poisoning." The tree is known by its fruits, and the fruits of too 
much reliance upon ethyl alcohol as an exciter of the Yes function 
are bitter indeed. No less bitter are the fruits of reliance upon such 
habit-forming sedatives, hallucinogens and mood elevators as opium and 
its derivatives, as cocaine (once so blithely recommended to his friends 
and patients by Dr. Freud), as the barbiturates and amphetamine. 
But in recent years the pharmacologists have extracted or synthesized 
several compounds that powerfully affect the mind without doing any 
harm to the body, either at the time of ingestion or, through addic- 
tion, later on. Through these new psychedelics, the subject's normal 
waking consciousness may be modified in many different ways. It is 
as though, for each individual, his deeper self decides which kind 
of experience will be most advantageous. Having decided, it makes 
use of the drug's mindchanging powers to give the person what 
he needs. Thus, if it would be good for him to have deeply buried 
memories uncovered, deeply buried memories will duly be uncovered. 
In cases where this is of no great importance, something else will 
happen. Normal waking consciousness may be replaced by aesthetic 
consciousness, and the world will be perceived in all its unimaginable 
beauty, all the blazing intensity of its "thereness." And aesthetic 
consciousness may modulate into visionary consciousness. Thanks to 
yet another kind of seeing, the world will now reveal itself as not 
only unimaginably beautiful, but also fathomlessly mysterious— as a 
multitudinous abyss of possibility forever actualizing itself into un- 
precedented forms. New insights into a new, transfigured world of 
givenness, new combinations of thought and fantasy— the stream of 
novelty pours through the world in a torrent, whose every drop is 
charged with meaning. There are the symbols whose meaning lies 
outside themselves in the given facts of visionary experience, and 
there are these given facts which signify only themselves. But "only 
themselves" is also "no less than the divine ground of all being." 
"Nothing but this" is at the same time "the Suchness of all." And 
now the aesthetic and the visionary consciousness deepen into mystical 
consciousness. The world is now seen as an infinite diversity that 
is yet a unity, and the beholder experiences himself as being at one 
with the infinite Oneness that manifests itself, totally present, at 
every point of space, at every instant in the flux of perpetual perishing 

Culture and the Individual ( ( 255 

and perpetual renewal. Our normal word-conditioned consciousness 
creates a universe of sharp distinctions, black and white, this and 
that, me and you and it. In the mystical consciousness of being at 
one with infinite Oneness, there is a reconciliation of opposites, a 
perception of the Not-Particular in particulars, a transcending of 
our ingrained subject-object relationships with things and persons; there 
is an immediate experience of our solidarity with all being and a kind 
of organic conviction that in spite of the inscrutabilities of fate, in 
spite of our own dark stupidities and deliberate malevolence, yes, 
in spite of all that is so manifestly wrong with the world, it is yet, 
in some profound, paradoxical and entirely inexpressible way. All 
Right. For normal waking consciousness, the phrase, "God is Love," 
is no more than a piece of wishful positive thinking. For the mystical 
consciousness, it is a self-evident truth. 

Unprecedentedly rapid technological and demographic changes are 
steadily increasing the dangers by which we are surrounded, and at 
the same time are steadily diminishing the relevance of the traditional 
feeling-and-behavior-patterns imposed upon all individuals, rulers and 
ruled alike, by their culture. Always desirable, widespread training in 
the art of cutting holes in cultural fences is now the most urgent of 
necessities. Can such a training be speeded up and made more effective 
by a judicious use of the physically harmless psychedelics now avail- 
able? On the basis of personal experience and the published evidence, 
I believe that it can. In my Utopian fantasy. Island, I speculated in 
fictional terms about the ways in which a substance akin to psilocybin 
could be used to potentiate the nonverbal education of adolescents 
and to remind adults that the real world is very different from the 
misshapen universe they have created for themselves by means of 
their culture-conditioned prejudices. "Having Fun with Fungi"-that 
was how one waggish reviewer dismissed the matter. But which is 
better: to have Fun with Fungi or to have Idiocy with Ideology, to 
have Wars because of Words, to have Tomorrow's Misdeeds out of 
Yesterday's Miscreeds? 

How should the psychedelics be administered? Under what circum- 
stances, with what kind of preparation and follow-up? These are 
questions that must be answered empirically, by large-scale experiment. 
Man's collective mind has a high degree of viscosity and flows from 
one position to another with the reluctant deliberation of an ebbing 
tide of sludge. But in a world of explosive population increase, of 
headlong technological advance and of militant nationalism, the time 
at our disposal is strictly limited. We must discover, and discover very 
soon, new energy sources for overcoming our society's psychological 
inertia, better solvents for liquefying the sludgy stickiness of an 

256 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

anachronistic state of mind. On the verbal level an education in the 
nature and limitations, the uses and abuses of language; on the 
wordless level an education in mental silence and pure receptivity; 
and finally, through the use of harmless psychedelics, a course of 
chemically triggered conversion experiences or ecstasies— these, I believe, 
will provide all the sources of mental energy, all the solvents of 
conceptual sludge, that an individual requires. With their aid, he 
should be able to adapt himself selectively to his culture, rejecting 
its evils, stupidities and irrelevances, gratefully accepting all its treasures 
of accumulated knowledge, of rationality, human-heartedness and 
practical wisdom. If the number of such individuals is sufficiently 
great, if their quality is sufficiently high, they may be able to pass 
from discriminating acceptance of their culture to discriminating 
change and reform. Is this a hopefully Utopian dream? Experiment 
can give us the answer, for the dream is pragmatic; the Utopian 
hypotheses can be tested empirically. And in these oppressive times 
a little hope is surely no unwelcomq visitant. 

Chapter 40 


O Nobly Born! 


Aldous Huxley's death— in Laura's words— was "a continuation 
of his own work" and "a last gesture of continuing importance." 
Huxley had not taken a psychedelic in about two years. In his 
last weeks he had thought about it but decided to wait until 
he felt better. His condition worsened; and in his last hours he 
consciously and courageously followed a program he had tested 
before both in his life (when Maria died) and his writing 
(Lakshmi's death in Island). He asked for LSD— the nearest equi- 
valent at hand to the moksha-medicine. Laura twice admin- 
istered loo microgram doses and improvised readings to him from 
the Leary-Alpert-Metzner manuscript of their soon-to-be-published 
manual for the psychedelic experience based upon the Tibetan 
Book of the Dead. Aldous died peacefully, fully conscious and 
apparently without pain, with the doors of his perception cleansed. 
Written originally for a small number of relatives and friends, 
Laura later incorporated this account into her memoir of her 
husband. By the mid-ig6o's. Dr. Eric Kast was relieving the pain 
and anxiety of his terminally ill patients with LSD. 

Aldous died as he hved, doing his best to develop fully in himself 
one of the essentials he recommended to others: Awareness. 

When he realized that the labor of his body leaving this life 
might lessen his awareness, Aldous prescribed his own medicine 
or— expressed in another way— his own sacrament. 

"The last rites should make one more conscious rather than less 

258 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

conscious," he had often said, "more human rather than less human." 
In a letter to Dr. XDsmond, who had reminded Aldous that six years 
had passed since their first mescaline experiment, he answered: "Yes, 
six years since that first experiment. 'O Death in Life, the years that 
are no more'— and yet also, O Life in Death. . . ." Also to Osmond: 
"... My own experience with Maria convinced me that the living 
can do a great deal to make the passage easier for the dying, to 
raise the most purely physiological act of human existence to the level 
of consciousness and perhaps even of spirituality." 

All too often, unconscious or dying people are treated as "things," 
as though they were not there. But often they are very much there. 
Although a dying person has fewer and fewer means of expressing 
what he feels, he still is open to receiving communication. In this 
sense the very sick or the dying person is much like a child: he 
cannot tell us how he feels, but he is absorbing our feeling, our voice, 
and, most of all, our touch. In the infant the greatest channel of 
communication is the skin. Similarly, for the individual plunged in 
the immense solitude of sickness and death, the touch of a hand 
can dispel that solitude, even warmly illuminate that unknown uni- 
verse. To the "nobly born" as to the "nobly dying," skin and voice 
communication may make an immeasurable difference. 

Modern psychology has discovered how powerful the birth trauma 
is to the individual's life. What about the "death trauma"? If one 
believes in the continuity of life, should one not give it equal 

The Tibetan Book of the Dead gives the greatest importance to 
the state of consciousness at the time of death. The guide always 
addresses the dying person with the salute "O Nobly Born!" and 
urges: "Let not thy mind be distracted." The guide keeps reminding 
the dying person not to become entangled in visions, heavenly or 
hellish, which are not real, but which are only the illusionary projec- 
tions of his thoughts and emotions, fears and desires. The dying are 
exhorted "to go on practicing the art of living even while they are 
dying. Knowing who in fact one is, being conscious of the universal 
and impersonal life that lives itself through each of us. That's the 
art of living, and that's what one can help the dying to go on 
practicing. To the very end." ^ 

"O nobly born!" This mark of respect and recognition is uplifting 
and seems to me more conducive to better life— here or after— than 
the image of the sinner beating his breast and desperately begging for 

1 Island. 

O Nobly Born! ( ( 259 

forgiveness: "What shall I, frail man, be pleading? \Vho for me be 
interceding, when the just are mercy needing?" 

November 22, 1963, was to be the last day on earth for two men 
of good will. Although belonging to different generations, different 
countries, and different backgrounds, both John F. Kennedy and 
Aldous Huxley had waged a common fight against ignorance and 
bad will; both dedicated their lives to helping humanity to understand 
and love itself. They died on the same day: no imagination could be 
vivid enough to conceive two ways of dying as antipodal as these. 
Distorted rumors have circulated about Aldous's death. I reported the 
actual events of that day in a recording for relatives and a few friends 
three weeks after Aldous died. These are the facts. 


There is so much I want to tell you about the last week of Aldous's 
life, and particularly the last day. What happened is important because 
it is a conclusion, better, a continuation, of his own work. 

First of all, I must confirm to you with complete subjective certainty 
that Aldous had not consciously considered the fact that he might 
die very soon until the day he died. Subconsciously it was all there, 
and you will be able to see this for yourself, because from November 
15th until November 22nd I have many of Aldous's remarks on tape. 
Aldous was never quite willing to give up his writing by hand for 
dictating or making notes on a recorder. He used a Dictograph only 
to record passages of literature he liked; he would listen to these in 
his quiet moments in the evening as he was going to sleep. In the 
beginning of November, when Aldous was in the hospital, Ginny 
gave us a recorder— a small thing, easily manageable and practically 
unnoticeable. After having practiced with it myself a few days, I 
showed it to Aldous, who was very pleased with it, and from the 
fifteenth on we used it a little every day, recording his dreams and 
notes for future writing. 

The period from November 15 to the twenty-second marked, it 
seems to me, a period of intense mental activity for Aldous. We had 
diminished little by little all the drugs as much as possible— only 
used pain-killers like Percodan, a little Amytal, and something for 
nausea. He took also a few injections of V2 cc of Dilaudid, which is 
a derivative of morphine; the doctor says this is a very small intake 
of morphine. 

Now, to pick up my point again, in his dreams as well as sometimes 
in his conversation, it seemed obvious and transparent that subcon- 

26o ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

sciously he knew that he was going to die. But not once did he 
speak of it. This had nothing to do with the idea that some of his 
friends put forward, that he wanted to spare me. It wasn't this, 
because Aldous had never been able to play a part, to say a single lie; 
he was constitutionally unable to lie, and if he wanted to spare me, 
he could certainly have spoken to Ginny, 

During the last two months I gave him almost daily an opportunity, 
an opening, for speaking about death, but of course this opening 
was always one that could have been taken in two ways— either 
toward life or toward death; and he always took it toward life. 
We read the entire manual of Dr. Leary based on the Tibetan 
Book of the Dead? He could have, even jokingly, said: "Don't forget 
to remind me when the time comes." His comment instead was directed 
only to the problem of "re-entry" after a psychedelic session. It is 
true he sometimes said things like, "If I get out of this," in connec- 
tion with his new ideas of writing, and wondered when and if he 
would have the strength to work. He was mentally very active and it 
seemed that some new levels of his mind were stirring. 

The night before he died (Tliursday night), about eight o'clock, 
suddenly an idea came to him. 

"Darling," he said, "it just occurs to me that I am imposing on 
Ginny— having somebody as sick as this in the house with the two 
children— this is really an imposition." 

Ginny was out of the house at the moment, and so I said, "Good, 
when she comes back I will tell her this— it will be a nice laugh." 

"No," he said with unusual insistence. "We should do something 
about it." 

"Well," I replied, keeping it light, "all right, get up. Let's go on a 

"No," he said. "It is serious. We must think about it— all these 
nurses in the house. What we could do, we could take an apartment 
for this period. Just for this period." 

It was very clear what he meant; it was unmistakably clear. He 
thought he might remain seriously sick for another three or four 
weeks, and then he could come back and start his normal life again. 
This idea of starting his normal life occurred quite often. In the last 
three or four weeks he was several times appalled by his weakness 
when he realized how much strength he had lost, and how long it 
would take to be normal again. A few days before, as he was going 
to sleep, I had asked him: "What are you thinking about?" 

2 The Psychedelic Experience (1964). See appendix. 

O Nobly Born! (( 261 

"I was thinking that a way must be found to speed up this recov- 
ery; it is true I am better, the back is better, but it is depressing not 
to have the strength to do something that one wants to do." 

Now this Thursday night he had remarked about taking an apart- 
ment with an unusual energy, but a few minutes later and all that 
evening I felt he was going down, he was losing ground quickly. Eat- 
ing was almost out of the question. He had just taken a few spoon- 
fuls of liquid and puree; every time he took anything, it would start 
the cough. Thursday night I called the doctor and told him the pulse 
was very high— 140; he had a little bit of fever, and my whole feeling 
was one of the imminence of death. Both the nurse and the doctor 
said they didn't think this was the case, but that if I wished the doc- 
tor would come up to see him that night. Then I returned to Aldous's 
room and we decided to give him an injection. It was about nine 
o'clock, and he went to sleep and I told the doctor to come the next 
morning. Aldous slept until about 2 a.m. and then he had another 
shot, and I saw him again at six-thirty. I felt that life was leaving, 
that something was more wrong than usual, although I didn't know 
exactly what, and a little later I sent you and Matthew and Ellen and 
my sister a wire. Then about 9 a.m. Aldous began to be so agitated, 
so uncomfortable, so restless. He wanted to be moved all the time. 
Nothing was right. The doctor came about that time and decided to 
give him a shot which he had given him once before, something that 
you give intravenously, very slowly. It takes five minutes to give and 
it is a drug that dilates the bronchial tubes so that respiration is 

This drug made him uncomfortable the time before— it must have 
been three Fridays before— when he had that crisis I wrote you about. 
But then it helped him. This time it made him feel restless. He 
couldn't express himself but he was feeling dreadful— nothing was 
right, no position relieved him. I tried to ask him what was happen- 
ing. He had difficulty in speaking, but he managed to say, "Just trying 
to tell you makes it worse." He wanted to be moved all the time. 
"Move me." "Move my legs." "Move my arms." "Move my bed." 
He had one of those push-button beds which move up and down 
from both the head and the foot, and incessantly, it seemed, he 
wanted to be moved up and down, up and down. We did this again 
and again and somehow it seemed to give him a little relief, but it 
was very, very little. 

All of a sudden— it must have been then ten o'clock— he could 
hardly speak, and he whispered he wanted "a big, big piece of paper to 
write on." I did not want to leave the room to find it, so I took a 

262 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

typewriter tablet that was near by, laid it on a large tray and held 
it. Aldous wrote, "If I go," and gave a direction for his will. 

I knew what he meant. He had signed his will, as I told you, about 
a week before, and in the will there was a transfer of a life-insurance 

policy from me to . I said to him, ''Do you mean that you 

want to make sure that the life insurance has been transferred?" 

He said, "Yes." 

I said, "The papers for the transfer have just arrived. If you want 
to sign them you can sign them, but it is not necessary, because you 
already made it legal in your will." 

He heaved a sigh of relief at not having to sign. I had asked him 
the day before to sign some important papers, and he had said, "Let's 
wait a little while." This, by the way, was his way now to say that he 
couldn't do something. If he was asked to eat he would say, "Let's 
wait a little while." And when I asked him the day before to do some 
signing that was rather important he said, "Let's wait a little while," 
He wanted to write you a letter. "And especially about Juliette's book, 
it's lovely," he had said several times. But when I proposed doing it, 
he would say, "Yes, in just a little while," in such a tired voice, so 
totally different from his normal way of doing things at once. So, 
when I told him that the signing was not necessary and that all was 
in order, he gave a sigh of relief. 

"If I go." This was the first time that he had said that with refer- 
ence to now. He wrote it. I knew and felt that for the first time he 
was looking at death— now. About half an hour before, I had called 
up S. C./^ a psychiatrist who w^as one of the leaders in the use of LSD. 
I asked him if he had ever given LSD to a man in this condition. He 
said that he had only done it twice, and in one case it had brought a 
sort of reconciliation with death, and in the other case it did not 
make any difference. I asked him if he would advise giving it to 
Aldous in his condition. I told him how I had offered it several times 
during the last two months, but Aldous always said that he would 
wait until he was better. 

Dr. C. said, "I don't know-I don't think so. What do you think?" 

I said, "I don't know. Shall I offer it to him?" 

He said, "I would offer it to him in a very oblique way. Just say, 
'What do you think about taking LSD?' " 

This vague response had been common to the few researchers in 
this field whom I had asked, "Do you give LSD in extremis?'' In 
Island there is the only definite reference I know of. I must have 
spoken to Dr. C. at about 9:30. Aldous's condition was worsening by 

' Dr. Sidney Cohen. 

O Nobly Born! ( ( 263 

the minute— he could not say what he wanted; I could not under- 
stand. At a certain point he said something. He said, "Who is eating 
out of my bowl?" I didn't know what this meant, and I asked him. 
He managed a faint, whimsical smile and said, "Oh, never mind, it 
is only a joke." And later on, feeling my need to know a little so I 
could do something, he said in an agonizing way, "At this point there 
is so little to share." Then I knew he knew that he was going. How- 
ever, this inability to express himself was only muscular. His brain 
was clear and in fact, I feel, at a pitch of activity. 

Some time during the morning, a new tank of oxygen was brought 
in by a young man who had come several times before. He started, 
rather loudl}', to say, "Did you hear that President Kennedy . . ." 

I stopped him with a look. Aldous did not notice, maybe because 
he was preoccupied about the tip. 

"Those tanks are heavy; give him a dollar." 

Aldous was always in such a hurry to give tips, as though the 
opportunity to do it were about to vanish. It was the same feeling 
today. I answered yes, but I was thinking I did not have a dollar in 
that room, and where was my purse. Aldous must have felt my hesita- 
tion because he repeated, "Give him a dollar. There are some bills 
in my trousers pocket in the closet." He spoke very low, but quite 
clearly this time. 

Then, I don't know exactly what time it was, he asked me for his 
tablet and wrote, "Try LSD 100 m itramuscular." Although, as 
you see from the reproduction, it is not very clear, I knew that this 
is what he meant. I read it aloud and he confirmed it. Suddenly, some- 
thing was very clear to me, after this tortuous talking of the last two 
months. I knew then, I knew what was to be done. I went quickly to 
fetch the LSD, which was in the medicine chest in the room across 
the hall. There is a TV set in that room, which was hardly ever used. 
But I had been aware, in the last hour or so, that it was on. Now, 
when I entered the room, Ginny, the doctor, the nurse, and the rest 
of the household were all looking at television. The thought shot 
through my mind: "This is madness, these people looking at televi- 
sion when Aldous is dying." A second later, while I was opening the 
box containing the LSD vial, I heard that President Kennedy had 
been assassinated. Only then did I understand the strange behavior 
of the people that morning. 
I said, "I am going to give him a shot of LSD— he asked for it." 
The doctor had a moment of agitation— you know very well the 
uneasiness in the medical mind about this drug. But no "authority," 
not even an army of authorities, could have stopped me then. I 

264 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

went into Aldous's room with the vial of LSD and prepared a syringe. 
The doctor asked me if I wanted him to give the shot— maybe be- 
cause he saw that my hands were trembling. His asking me that made 
me conscious of my hands, and I said, "No, I must do this." I quieted 
myself, and when I gave him the shot my hands were firm. 

Then, somehow, a great relief came to us both. It was 11:45 when 
I gave him his first shot of 100 j" I sat near his bed and I said, 
"Darling, maybe in a little while I will take it with you. Would you 
like me to take it also in a little while?" I said "a little while" be- 
cause I had no idea of when I could take it. And he indicated yes. We 
must keep in mind that by now he was speaking very, very little. 

Then I said, "Would you like Matthew to take it with you also?" 

And he said yes, 

"What about Ellen?" 

He said yes. Then I mentioned two or three people who had been 
working with LSD and he said, "No, no, basta, hasta." 

Then I said, "What about Ginny?" 

And he said, "Yes," with emphasis. Then we were quiet. I just 
sat there without speaking for a while, Aldous was not so agitated 
physically. He seemed— somehow I felt he knew— we both knew 
what we were doing, and this had always been a great relief to Aldous. 
I have seen him at times during his illness upset until he knew what 
he was going to do; then, the decision taken, however serious, he 
would make a total change. This enormous feeling of relief would 
come to him, and he wouldn't be worried at all about it. He would 
say let's do it, and we would do it, and he was like a liberated man. 
And now I had the same feeling: a decision had been made. Suddenly 
he had accepted the fact of death; now, he had taken this moksha- 
medicine in which he believed. Once again he was doing what he had 
written in Island, and I had the feeling that he was interested and 
relieved and quiet. 

After half an hour, the expression on his face began to change a 
little, and I asked him if he felt the effect of LSD, and he indicated 
no. Yet I think that something had taken place already. This was 
one of Aldous's characteristics. He would always delay acknowledging 
the effect of any medicine, even when the effect was quite certainly 
there; unless the effect was very, very strong, he would say no. Now 
the expression on his face was beginning to look as it did when he 
had taken the mo/^s/icr-medicine, when this immense expression of 
complete bliss and love would come over him. This was not the case 
now, but there was a change in comparison to what his face had 
been two hours before. I let another half hour pass, and then I de- 
cided to give him another 100 m, I told him I was going to do it. 

O Nobly Born! (( 265 

and he acquiesced. I gave him another shot, and then I began to talk 
to him. He was very quiet now; he was very quiet and his legs were 
getting colder; higher and higher I could see purple areas of cyanosis. 
Then I began to talk to him, saying, "Light and free." Some of these 
suggestions I had given him at night, in these last few weeks, before 
he would go to sleep, and now I spoke them more convincingly, more 

"Light and free you let go, darling; forward and up. You are going 
forward and up; you are going toward the light. Willingly and con- 
sciously you are going, willing and consciously, and you are doing 
this beautifully; you are doing this so beautifully— you are going 
toward the light— you are going toward the light— you are going toward 
a greater love— you are going forward and up. It is so easy— it is so 
beautiful. You are doing it so beautifully, so easily. Light and free. 
Forward and up. You are going toward Maria's love with my love. You 
are going toward a greater love than you have ever known. You are 
going toward the best, the greatest love, and it is easy, it is so easy, 
and you are doing it so beautifully." 

I believe I started to talk to him— it must have been about one or 
two o'clock. It was very difficult for me to keep track of time. I was 
very, very near his ear, and I hope I spoke clearly and understandably. 
Once I asked him, "Do you hear me?" He squeezed my hand; he 
was hearing me. It was 3:15 p.m. according to the nurse's records. I 
was tempted to ask more questions, but in the morning he had begged 
me not to ask any more questions, and the entire feeling was that 
things were right. I didn't dare to inquire, to disturb, and that was 
the only question that I asked: "Do you hear me?" 

Later on I asked the same question, but the hand didn't move any 
more. Now from two o'clock until the time he died, which was 5:20 
p.m., there was complete peace except for once. Tliat must have been 
about three-thirty or four, when I saw the beginning of struggle in his 
lower lip. His lower lip began to move as if it were going to struggle 
for air. Tlien I gave the direction even more forcefully: 

"It is easy, and you are doing this beautifully and consciously, in 
full awareness, in full awareness, darling, you are going toward the 

I repeated these or similar words for the last three or four hours. 
Once in a while my own emotion would overcome me, but if it did 
I immediately would leave the bed for two or three minutes, and 
would come back only when I could control my emotion. The twitch- 
ing of the lower lip lasted only a little bit, and it seemed to respond 
completely to what I was saying. 

"Easy, easy, and you are doing this willingly and consciously and 

266 ) ) PART 2 / Psychedelic and Visionary Experience 

beautifully— going forward and up, light and free, forward and up 
toward the light, into the light, into complete love." 

The twitching stopped, the breathing became slower and slower, 
and there was absolutely not the slightest indication of contraction, 
of struggle. It was just that the breathing became slower— and slower 
—and slower; the ceasing of life was not a drama at all, but like a 
piece of music just finishing so gently in a sempre piii piano, dolce- 
mente . . . and at five-twenty the breathing stopped. 

And now, after I have been alone these few days, and less bom- 
barded by other people's feelings, the meaning of this last day be- 
comes clearer and clearer to me and more and more important. Aldous 
was appalled, I think (and certainly I am), at the fact that what he 
wrote in Island was not taken seriously. It was treated as a work of 
science fiction, when it was not fiction, because each one of the ways 
of living he described in Island was not a product of his fantasy, but 
something that had been tried in one place or another, some of them 
in our own everyday life. If the way Aldous died were known, it might 
awaken people to the awareness that not only this, but many other 
facts described in Island are possible here and now. Aldous asking 
for the 772o/?s/zcz-medicine while dying is not only a confirmation of 
his open-mindedness and courage, but as such a last gesture of con- 
tinuing importance. Such a gesture might be ignorantly misinterpreted, 
but it is history that Huxleys stop ignorance, before ignorance stops 

Now, is his way of dying to remain for us, and only for us, a relief 
and consolation, or should others also benefit from it? Aren't we all 
nobly born and entitled to nobly dying? 



Visionary Experience 

As Carnegie Visiting Professor at M.I.T., Huxley gave a series 
of seven lectures in the fall of i960 on the subject, "What a 
Piece of Work is Man." About 2,000 people attended each lec- 
ture. The talk on Visionary Experience was recorded and later 
produced on a long-playing record. Although less organized than 
the quite similar lecture bearing the same title which he delivered 
in Copenhagen the following summer, this recording better cap- 
tures the flow of a live Huxley lecture, including a sense of 
audience involvement. Apart from that readers will find among 
textual variations more substantial references to visionary poets 
{especially Traherne) and mescalin researchers. 

Tonight Mr. Huxley speaks to us of "The World of Visionary Ex- 
perience." Mr. Huxley . . . [applause]. 

I want to begin this talk with one of those questions which inquisi- 
tive children ask their parents and stump them completely— a question 
like, "\Vhy is grass green?" But this is a question about precious 
stones. Why are precious stones precious? And obviously it's extremely 
difficult to find any rational reason for this, as there's certainly no 
economic reason, no biological reason why people should spent an 
immense amount of time, energy and money collecting and cutting 
and setting colored pebbles. There must be some much deeper psy- 
chological reason for this strange behavior. Now this question was 
asked many years ago by Santayana, who came up with what seems 
to me a partial explanation, but I don't think it's a complete, final 
explanation. He said that, in his opinion, precious stones are precious 
because they seemed to man to be the nearest approach, in this 

272 ) ) APPENDIX 

world of perpetual perishing, of passing away— they seemed to be the 
nearest approach to the permanent and the eternal. A precious stone 
does appear to remain exactly as it is generation after generation, and 
Santayana assumed that it was because this was the nearest approach, 
in our world, to something that was intrinsically eternal that the 
precious stone took on its precious quality. 

Well, I think there is something in this explanation but I don't 
think it's by any means the complete story. I think there are other 
compelling psychological reasons why we value precious stones as we 
do. I'm going to quote a passage from Plato which I think throws a 
lot of light on this subject. It comes from the Phaedo where Socrates 
is talking about the Ideal World, which he says is more beautiful and 
real than the actual world in which we live. And he says, "In this 
other earth, the colors are much purer and more brilliant than they 
are down here. The very mountains and stones have a richer gloss 
and lovelier transparency and intensity of hue. The precious stones 
of this lower world, our highly prized cornelians, jaspers, emeralds and 
all the rest are but the tiny fragments of these stones above. In the 
other world, there is no stone but is precious and exceeds in beauty 
every gem of ours." And he goes on to say, "the vision of this world 
is a vision of blessed beholders." Well, this is, it seems to me, a very 
interesting passage in as much as it makes perfectly clear that the 
Ideal World of Plato is not a mere metaphysical construction, a kind 
of inference from the facts, our present world, of its imperfection. It 
is a visible world, a world which can be seen with the inner eye and 
which has certain, describable peculiarities, such as the colors being 
much brighter and it being filled with stones which are very like our 
precious stones. 

And I find here probably what is the basic psychological reason 
for our immensely high valuation of precious stones, which is this: 
that these are the objects in the natural world which most nearly 
resemble things which are seen with the inner eye, by people who 
have the gift of vision, and of which even those who do not con- 
sciously have the gift of vision have some kind of unconscious inkling. 
It seems, as it were, to remind them of something going on in the 
back of their minds, which— on a subterranean level— they know 
something about. And we get a certain confirmation of this via the 
greatest of the Neoplatonic philosophers, Plotinus, who says that 
everything in the Intelligible World— which is much the same as the 
Ideal World of Plato-everything there shines. And he says that for 
this reason, the most beautiful thing in this world is fire, which is a 
transference from the inner facts of the Visionary World into the 
outer fact. This is a transference of value from something which is 

Visionary Experience ( ( 273 

highly esteemed in the inner world into the outer world. And it is— 
the most beautiful thing in this world is fire. 

It's interesting to find, for example in Ezekiel's description of the 
Garden of Eden— he speaks of it being filled with gems, filled with 
what he calls "stones of fire." As I hope to show later on, this rich- 
ness of gem-like qualities, which is found in the Visionary World, 
does explain many very strange facts about certain types of art, and 
many facts about the curious, uniform quality of religious traditions, 
folklore traditions, traditions of the nature of the Golden Age and 
the After Life, which are found all over the world. We'll talk about 
that later. 

Meanwhile, let us speak about the accessibility of this Visionary 
World. Well, we look at the records and we look around and we 
find that a certain number of people can enter this Visionary World 
spontaneously, that they can go back and forth between the two 
worlds without any real difficulty, and that probably quite a lot of 
children inhabit the Visionary World for quite a bit of the time. 
And also we find that this Visionary World is very highly prized by 
people, and that they will go out of their way to get into it, that if 
they do not visit it spontaneously, they do a great many things which 
help them to go into it artificially. The visionary experience is so 
highly prized that throughout the ages of recorded history people have 
done their best to induce visions. They have tried to go to this other 
world by various artificial vehicles. And there are a number of ways 
which have been worked out. There are psychological ways. There 
are physiological ways. There are chemical ways. It is worth, I think, 
describing a few of these methods. 

For example, it is possible to go into the other world through 
hypnosis. Quite a number of people can— in a certain stage, a rather 
deep stage of hypnosis— can and do enter some kind of visionary 
world. It's a very interesting experience if one has ever watched 
people passing out of what seems to be a kind of sleep-like stage into 
a world where they are seeing very clearly very strange and interesting 
things. I think this hypnotic visionary world is probably not quite so 
brilliant and extraordinary as some of the other visionary worlds, the 
other aspects of the Visionary World which can be touche'd in other 
ways. And then, of course, there are the purely psychological methods. 
There are the methods of intensive concentration, which we find in 
the various yogas of the East and in the so-called spiritual practices 
of the West, which do, undoubtedly, produce these visionary states. 

Then there is the method which has been employed in many, 
many parts of the world, the method of complete isolarion: the 
limiting, the cutting down of sensory experiences to the greatest 

274 ) ) APPENDIX 

possible extent. And now this is a very interesting thing. Within iiie 
last few years, a number of experiments have been made in modern 
psychological and medical laboratories with what is called "limited 
environment," For example, people like [D.O.] Hebb, and Dr. [John] 
Lilly at the National Institute of Health in Washington, have em- 
ployed various means for cutting down the input of sensory stimuli 
to the extreme limit. Lilly, for example, cut down external stimuli to 
such a point that there was nothing, practically, that was afEecting 
him from without. He immersed himself completely in a bath of warm 
water at a temperature of 94, breathed through a snorkle so that his 
face was completely covered, and therefore no part of his skin was 
feeling anything except a uniform temperature. He tied himself up 
in a harness which didn't permit him to move more than a tenth of 
an inch. He was in a lightproof and soundproof room, where the 
interesting fact is that within four hours, he and those colleagues of 
his who were submitted to this extremely drastic treatment were 
seeing very, very strange visions. [Laughter]. And where the depriva- 
tion of external stimuli is not quite so complete, as it was in Hebb's 
experiments, similar visions will be seen within twenty-four to thirty- 
six hours. Now one of the interesting facts here is that the great 
majority of these visions were extremely unpleasant— they were so 
unpleasant that I asked Dr. Lilly what they were. And he is always 
declining to tell me ... I don't know . . . [laughter] . . . they must 
have been very unpleasant indeed. Now this is extremely interesting 
in view of the historical facts. We find, both in the East and West, 
a long tradition of isolation, that hermits and would-be visionaries 
have retired to the most desolate places where they could cut off an 
enormous amount of external stimuli. In the fourth century, in the 
Thebaid in Egypt, immense numbers of hermits and coenobites lived in 
the desert, cutting themselves off as far as possible from external stimuli. 
And we see the same thing with the Tibetan Llamas and the Hindu 
monks in caves and in remote places in the Himalayas, and that they 
did it all for the same reason. And again, what is very interesting is that 
we find, from the records, that a great many of these monks of the 
Thebaid had visions and had extremely painful and disagreeable visions. 
In virtually every picture gallery of the world, you will see paintings of 
the temptations of St. Anthony, which are diabolic visions which 
thronged in upon the saint. He did have a certain number of beatific 
visions. And it is interesting to find the historical records confirming 
everything that has been found in recent years by laboratory work. 

Over and above these psychological methods, there are a number 
of physiological methods of inducing visions by changing body chem- 
istry. One of the strange facts is that by inducing certain changes 

Visionary Experience ( ( 275 

in body chemistry, we do appear to open the door, so to say, which 
separates our ordinary, everj'day selves from this remote visionary area 
of mind. One of the physiological methods is of course the method 
practiced in the Orient, the method of breathing exercises. But all 
breathing exercises culminate in one thing, which is prolonged suspen- 
sions of breath, which may last a minute, several minutes even. But 
when there are such prolonged suspensions of breath, there is natu- 
rally an increase of carbon dioxide in the blood, and it is now well- 
known that an increase of carbon dioxide, either induced in this way 
or else brought to the blood by inhalation, does produce very strange, 
visionary, psychological experiences. So that we see again here that 
these time-honoured, yogic methods have been again confirmed by 
recent laboratory work showing that if you do something which 
increases the COo in the blood, you do automatically give yourself 
access to this visionary world. 

Then again, there is the question of fasting. In many cultural tradi- 
tions fasting has been used precisely for the purpose of creating visionary 
experience. The red man in this country habitually and systemat- 
ically resorted to fasting for the express purpose of achieving visionary 
experience. It was one of the initiation rites of young men in many of 
the Indian tribes. And of course fasting has been used to a very con- 
siderable extent in all the major religions. And similarly lack of 
sleep, cutting down on sleep, will also produce effects of this same 
kind. And even some of the more violent physical austerities, such as 
self-flagellation, also, I think, produce certain chemical changes which 
facilitate the coming of visions. For example, a violent self-flagellation 
will release great quantities of histamine, great quantities of adrenalin, 
both of which may have profound psychological effects. When we 
look back on the history of religious practices, and the desire for 
visions which has existed, I think, in all cultures, we see that these 
curious ways of facilitating the visionary experience have been em- 
ployed, and we now know the reasons— in as far as they are biochemi- 
cal—we know the reasons why these practices were adopted. 

Beyond these methods of inducing visionary experience, there are 
the directly chemical methods. And here again, there is an enormous 
history in this field. To anybody who wishes to know the detailed 
story of it I recommend a very interesting book by the French 
anthropologist, Philippe de Felice, called Poisons Sacres [Ivresses Di- 
vines], sacred poisons, which is an account of all the purely chemical 
methods used in both civilized and primitive cultural traditions for 
the purpose of getting people into the visionary state. Every kind of 
substance has been used for this purpose, and the interesting fact is 
that, in the past, the majority of these substances— these mind-chang- 

276 ) ) APPENDIX 

ing, vision-inducing substances— have been dangerous. Opium of course 
is a dangerous substance. Even dear old alcohol is a dangerous sub- 
stance when used to the extent to which it has been in the various 
religious traditions. Coca is a dangerous substance, hashish is a fairly 
dangerous substance, and many of them have certainly been effective 
in producing visionary experience— but have been effective at very 
considerable cost to the physiology. People have paid a great price. 
Even the traditional Hindu drug, the drug Soma which is described 
in the Vedas, produced certain visionary effects without any doubt, 
but it was so poisonous that even the great god Indra felt extremely 
ill after taking too much Soma, and ordinary mortals could actu- 
ally die of it. 

The really startling fact about recent pharmacological developments 
is that a number of chemical substances have been discovered in re- 
cent years which permit the opening of the door into the Visionary 
World without inflicting serious damage upon the body. Enormous 
changes in consciousness can be brought about without hurting the 
body. And this is an extraordinary fact— some of these substances are 
related to substances existing in nature. For example, mescalin is the 
active principal, now synthesized, in the Indian peyote. And inciden- 
tally, peyote is one of the few traditional mind-changing drugs which 
has been taken for many centuries by the Indians (and whose use is 
spreading now throughout the western United States right up into 
Canada) . . . has been taken without producing addiction, without 
causing degeneration among those who take it. And beyond this 
synthetic mescalin, there are various others: lysergic acid [and psilocy- 
bin], the most recent of them being the active principal of the sacred 
Mexican mushroom, which \^'as synthesized by [Albert] Hofmann in 
Basel, Switzerland. 

My friend Professor Roger Heim of Paris, the mycologist, told me 
that he recently returned from Mexico and had gone down to visit 
an old witch doctress friend there, bringing her a number of the pills 
which Hofmann had synthesized, and had given her some of these 
pills, which she had taken and was quite delighted because they pro- 
duced exactly the same effect as the mushrooms. And she was more 
specially delighted that now she could practice her magic every season 
of the year instead of having to wait for the mushroom season . . . 
[laughter] ... so that this is one of the great triumphs of modem 
science, that the witch doctor in Mexico will be able to send a post 
card to Dr. Hofmann in Basel, saying "Have important magic to do, 
please send one hundred capsules Air Mail" . . . [laughter] . . . you 
see. These are some of the chemical ways of opening this door which 
leads into the other part of the mind. 

Visionary Experience ( ( 277 

Experiments of course have been made by eminent psychologists 
for a long time. William James, for example, made considerable ex- 
periments with nitrous oxide. And, incidentally, was much blamed 
by some of his colleagues for such a frivolous undertaking, and for 
taking it so seriously, and was defended by Bergson in his Two Sources 
of Religion and Ethics, where he said we must remember that the 
nitrous oxide was not the cause of Professor James's remarkable ex- 
periences—it was the occasion, in that it removed certain obstacles 
which permitted this other material to come through. The obstacles 
could have been removed by purely psychological means, or by other 
psycho-physical means, but this particular means did open the door, 
and the nature of the experience which came through is not affected 
by the nature of the key which is used to open the door. And this is 
a very interesting passage in Bergson, and I think it's fundamentally 
true that although there seems to be something rather discreditable 
and unfair, so to say, about the possibility of opening the door by a 
means so simple as psilocybin or LSD-25, yet there seems to be no 
reason to doubt that what comes through is of the same nature as 
what comes through via breathing exercises, or fasting, or any other 

Now, let us briefly talk about the nature of the experience. Of 
course every visionary experience is unique as every human being is 
unique. But these things do not occur at random. Although they are 
unique, and although there are considerable variations, yet we do 
recognize in the majority of these experiences a kind of family like- 
ness. Tlicy belong to a certain class. We realize this very well if we 
read such a book as Heinrich Kliiver's monograph on peyote [Mescal, 
1928] and [Karl] Beringer's book [Der Meskalinrausch, 1927], a whole 
mass of religious literature on visions and so forth. We see that there 
is a kind of resemblance running through this whole family of ex- 
periences. And I think we can say that the highest common factor in 
all these experiences is the experience of light. 

Now, the light experience is of several kinds. There is the experi- 
ence which is recorded in a great deal of the literature of what may 
be called undifferentiated light— just an enormous burst of light, un- 
embodied in any particular form, just a great flood of light. I think 
it would be true to say that this experience of the undifferentiated 
light is generally associated with what may be called a full-blown 
theophany, of a full-blown mystical experience— that experience which 
transcends the subject-object relationship, which produces a sense of 
solidarity between the experiencer and the universe, which gives the 
experiencer a sense of the basic All-Rightness of the universe, an 
understanding of such a phrase as occurs in the Book of Job, "Yea 

278 ) ) APPENDIX 

though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." It seems to me this is a 
characteristic feature of the mystical experience. When associated 
and interpreted in terms of a theological frame of reference— when 
the experience is interpreted in Christian terms as the unity of knowl- 
edge of God— this kind of experience is, as a matter of fact, generally 
associated with this experience of undifferentiated light. And of course 
this kind of light experience is recorded again and again in the litera- 
ture. The most familiar case is the case of St. Paul on the road to 
Damascus. We find Mohammed's call to being a prophet came when 
he woke up in the middle of the night perceiving a light so intense 
that it caused him to swoon away. Plotinus entered several times into 
the light and was, as he says, "swallowed up in divinity." We find 
Dante describing paradise as being "illumined as though by two suns" 
—I mean there is the ordinary sun and then there is this other light 
which is like the light of a much more powerful sun coming through 
the ordinary sunlight. Then in more recent times, we find the tre- 
mendous light experience of St. John of the Cross when he was con- 
fined by his brethren to prison in Toledo. And Jacob Boehme records 
light experiences of this same kind. And one could find, I think 
without any difficulty, hundreds, literally hundreds of such experiences 
recorded by eminent, or less eminent mystics. The interesting thing 
is that this kind of experience is by no means confined to the eminent 
people who have a great power of expression. As such collectors of 
experiences as Dr. Raynor Johnson, in his book, The Watcher on 
the Hills [1959], has shown, a great many perfectly ordinary people 
who don't have this gift of expression and who have achieved no 
celebrity as religious leaders do in fact have experiences of exactly 
the same kind. 

Now, let me go over this very briefly because we haven't got very 
much time, but I received a letter from an unknown correspondent 
in England— she described herself as a \^oman in her sixties— and she 
was saying: "My whole life has been influenced by something that 
happened to me when I was a schoolgirl of sixteen. When I was in 
the kitchen— I was cutting a slice of bread off a loaf to toast for tea 
—and suddenly I became aware of this tremendous light all round me, 
with a sense of extraordinarj' happiness and bliss, and a sense of the 
complete All-Rightness of the universe. I was absolutely overpowered 
by this. It was a dark November afternoon. The whole place was 
flooded with this light. The experience lasted in clock time perhaps a 
minute, then it went away, but the memory of it has sustained my life 
ever since. And it has completely abolished any fear of death that I 
may ever have had. I adore life but I am not in any way afraid of death." 
Well, these sort of experiences, as one can find set forth in Raynor 

Visionary Experience ( ( 279 

Johnson's book, are really quite common, I thinlc. A great many 
people have had these kinds of experiences of the undifferentiated 
light which, as I say, is associated with something in the nature of the 
full-blown mystical experience. And here it is quite interesting to go 
into another cultural tradition and to find that in the Buddhist tradition 
what is called "the clear light of the void," this tremendous uncolored 
light, is again associated with the ultimate liberation experience, and 
that the other lesser lights— particularly the lights which are embodied 
in forms— are associated with the lower, so-called "pre-mystical" vi- 
sionary experiences. 

Let us now come down to what is strictly the visionary experience, 
which is the experience of light in its differentiated form, when it is 
embodied in shapes and in personages, in landscapes and so on. And 
here again we find, curiously enough, a certain uniformity. We find 
likenesses running through the various descriptions of this. For ex- 
ample, the experience will very often begin with a vision of what 
may be called living geometries, geometrical forms brilliantly lighted, 
continuously changing. These may modulate into some kind of geo- 
metrical objects such as carpets, mosaics, and so on. There may then 
be tremendous visions of landscapes of an extraordinarily brilliant and 
glowing nature, of architectures often encrusted with gems. And the 
landscapes too are frequently recorded as encrusted with gems, which 
again throws a light on what Plato was saying in his dialogue, and the 
reason for our high estimation of precious stones— because we see 
these things in our visionary experience and even if we don't know 
them consciously, they in some way remind some area of our mind 
of this strange world, which I think exists in every mind although 
often deeply buried. And then there are sometimes visions of figures, 
strange faces, and there's a very interesting fact— which is recorded 
again and again both in the spontaneous cases and in the induced 
cases— that when faces are seen, they are never the faces of people 
that the expericnccr knows. He docs not sec the face of his mother, 
his father, his brother, his friend. These are entirely new faces. And 
this I think casts a great deal of light on this whole conception of 
angelic figures. Of course it's entirely incorrect to suppose that the 
angels are the spirits of the departed; they are of another species alto- 
gether. And this is a very interesting fact— that at the, sort of, anti- 
podes of our mind, in this remote area of our mind, it is so far 
beyond the personal unconscious that we don't see anything connected 
with our own private life, or even with the general life of mankind. 
We see something quite different. 

When Blake saw these figures he said these are the cherubim and 
seraphim. And he knew all about them. They were very large— he said 

28o )) APPENDIX 

the seraphim are 120 feet high . . .[brief laughter]. And they live in 
these extraordinary landscapes. And he described the landscapes. He 
says the landscapes and the architectures in which they live are highly 
organized, they are articulated beyond anything which the mortal and 
perishing sight could possibly imagine, that they were in some sense 
super-real, they were more real than ordinary reality. And Blake saw 
these things all his life, except for a period in middle life when for 
some reason visions didn't come to him. But this was a regular type 
of experience for him. And he was constantly seeing these faces, 
which were not faces of anybody he knew, but were these strange 
figures from somewhere else. Another curious fact about these figures 
is that they were never doing anything. This is one of the things 
which recurs again and again in the descriptions— that these figures 
when seen are not in action, but sort of doing nothing in particular. 
And this again corresponds very closely to the conception of these 
angelic entities in the Other World who are not engaged in action— 
they are engaged in the beatific vision, in contemplation. And I 
think this is one of the reasons why the most powerful and moving 
religious art is always static art. The great religious symbols, like the 
Khmer Buddhas, like the great Egyptian gods, like the primitive 
Greek statues, are static. They are not doing anything. The great 
pantocriteres and madonnas of Byzantine art— they are also com- 
pletely static, not doing things. And this is precisely the nature of 
these beings who are found in the Other World, the world of vision. 
Let me very briefly go into another very interesting fact about the 
Visionary Experience . . . that the Visionary Experience occurs by no 
means only behind the closed eyelids. In very many cases, the vision- 
ary quality, the quality of the vision, so to say spills over into the 
external world— so that the experiencer, when he opens his eyes, sees 
the outer world transfigured, sees it as incomparably more beautiful 
than he sees it at ordinary times, sees it as glowing with an intensity 
of light and significance and life, which is something he simply does 
not see at all in his ordinary state. Now, there are plenty, I think 
plenty of poets and artists who have spontaneously seen the world in 
this way. You will find, for example, admirable descriptions of the 
nature of this transfigured vision of the world in some of the writings 
of the Irish poet A. E. [George Russell] which I recommend very 
much. These are very subtle and psychologically penetrating descrip- 
tions of the kind of things that the visionary sees in the external 
world. And, I think, it would be true to say that quite a lot of chil- 
dren probably see the world in this transfigured way. They see it, 
very much, I think, as Wordsworth describes himself as seeing it as 
a child, describes it in the great ode on the intimations of immortality 

Visionary Experience ( ( 281 

in childhood. As Wordsworth said, he looks at the outside world and 
it has the glory and the freshness of a dream. And he goes on to say 
that as he grew up, this glory faded into the light of common day and, 
"But yet I know, where'er I go, / That there hath past away a glory 
from the earth." And the world became, so to say, very boring once 

And, there's a particularly beautiful passage in one of the Centuries 
of Meditation of Traherne and I would like to quote this passage 
which describes his experience as a child. He was brought up in 
Shrewsbury, I think it was, in a small town which had walls around 
it at that time, and he describes what it was like looking out from 
his home into the world around him. He says, 

The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold. 
The green trees, when I saw them first through one of the 
city gates, transported and ravished me. Their sweetness and 
unusual beauty made my heart leap and almost mad with 
ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things. The 
men, oh what reverent and venerable creatures did the aged 
seem, immortal cherubim, and the young men glittering and 
sparkling angels, and maids, strange, seraphic pieces of life and 
beauty. Boys and girls tumbling in the street and playing were 
like moving jewels. Eternity was manifested in the light of the 
day and something infinite behind everything appeared. And 
then, with much ado, I was corrupted and made to learn the 
dirty devices of the world, which now I undo and become as 
a little child again, that I may enter into the Kingdom of 

And he goes on to say that the Kingdom of God is already here, if 
we would only allow ourselves to see it. He says. 

The world is a mirror of infinite beauty, yet no man sees it. 
It is a temple of majesty, yet no man regards it. It is a region 
of light and peace. Did not men disquiet it? It is the paradise 
of God. It is the place of angels and the Gate of Heaven. 

Traherne, I think, describes a state of mind which is relatively com- 
mon. I mean I think there are many more people, who have had in 
childhood and even occasionally in their adult life glimpses of this 
transfigured world, who realize that the world is incomparably more 
beautiful and more interesting than they normally give it any credit 

You will find a number of these references to this kind of visionary 
experience of the external world in Wordsworth. There's a very beau- 

282 ) ) APPENDIX 

tiful poem where he speaks of the effect of sunset— how this sort of 
added, extra transfiguring power evokes this sense of visionary other- 
ness. His poem goes, 

No sound is uttered,— but a deep 

And solemn harmony pervades 

The hollow vale from steep to steep. 

And penetrates the glades. 

Far-distant images draw nigh, 

Called forth by wondrous potency 

Of beamy radiance, that imbues 

What e'er it strikes with gem-like hues! 

In vision exquisitely clear. 

Herds range along the mountain side; 

And glistening antlers are described; 

And gilded flocks appear. 

Thine is the tranquil hour, purpureal Eve! 

But long as god-like wish, or hope divine, 

Informs my spirit, ne'er can I believe 

That this magnificence is wholly thine! 

From worlds not quickened by the sun 

A portion of the gift is won; 

An intermingling of Heaven's pomp is spread 

On ground which British shepherds tread! 

Let's go very briefly now into the question of the relationship of 
these kinds of visionary experience with art, and with traditional 
religion. In the sphere of art, why, I think it would be true to say that 
whereas by no means all art is of a visionary nature, there are quite 
important aspects of art which have a visionary quality and which 
owe their power precisely to this reminder which they bring to the 
beholder of the visionary world. It is ver)' significant, for example, 
that the holy of holies in almost every religion, the furniture of the 
altar, is always composed of what may be called vision-inducing mate- 
rials. It is composed of gems, of glittering metals, of polished marble 
and so forth. And, there is evidently something in works of art made 
of these vision-inducing materials which is itself vision-inducing. An- 
other essentially vision-inducing art which played a great part at one 
time in our own civilization is the art of the stained glass window. Now, 
anybody who has been into the Sainte Chapelle in Paris or into 
Chartres cathedral must realize the extraordinary visionary power 
which these windows have. It is possible, by means of stained glass 
windows, to turn the whole of a vast building into one single jewel. 
One is inside a great jewel. And the effect is, I think, most extraordi- 
nary, A very significant fact, recorded by the Abbot of Saint-Denis, 

Visionary Experience ( ( 283 

Suger, is that in the 12th and early 13th century there were always 
two collecting boxes in the churches: one for the poor and one for 
the setting up of stained glass windows. And whereas the boxes for 
the poor were often empty, the boxes for the stained glass windows 
were generally full, showing how highly these vision-inducing objects 
were prized. 

I can't go into many of the other types of visionary art— there are 
quite a number of them. And it's not difficult to sort them out from 
the ordinary run of art. They have a peculiar quality and I think 
they owe their great power to this capacity which they have for evok- 
ing within us a kind of memory, a kind of awareness of that which 
lies at the back of our minds, and which we then see realized in front 
of us in the external world. A very interesting and curious fact is that 
many of the popular arts have been essentially visionary arts. It's as 
though the ordinary, unlettered people had a peculiar predilection 
for the visionary experience, as manifested in art. I mean, take some 
of the most ordinary and everyday of popular arts. Take for example 
the art of fireworks. Well this goes back a very long way in China 
and it goes back into the later Roman Empire. There are descriptions 
in the poetry of Claudian of the most fantastic firework displays, 
which were at least as elaborate as any display we see today. But of 
course they were not as good as the displays today because there was 
not at that time the knowledge of chemistry which we now have, 
which permits us to put into our fireworks an immense range of 
colors, which was undoubtedly quite impossible for the Romans. 

Another popular art which has played a great part throughout 
history is the art of pageantry. And this has been used, of course, 
by kings and prelates from time immemorial to impress people. I 
mean this is a visionary art and it impresses the beholders to such 
an extent that it has been regularly used by men in authority to 
transform de facto power into de jure power. I mean they are in 
fact powerful but the whole art of pageantry— the coronations of 
kings, the processions, the state entries, processions of popes and so 
on— all these things are methods for persuading people by this kind 
of visionary magic that the brute fact of power is in some way power 
by right divine. And, I think there is no question that the whole 
history of pageantry has played an enormous part in the consohdation 
of power. Of course in our own day we have seen the extraordinary 
power exercised by the pageantry devised by the Nazis. I never saw the 
Nuremberg rally each year but those who saw it say that this was 
possibly the most extraordinary "ballet" ever put on any stage by 
anybody, that this was one of the most magnificent pure spectacles. 

And closely related to pageantry and ritual of course is theatrical 

284 ) ) APPENDIX 

spectacle. Tlie theatrical performances are of two kinds. There is the 
drama and then there is spectacle. And very often, I regret to say, 
in contemporary productions of old plays, of Shakespeare for example, 
the spectacle is often made to interfere with the drama, but both 
have their legitimate place. If you look at the history of it, it's 
very interesting to see what enormous time and trouble and money 
has been used, has been expended on spectacles. The Elizabethan 
and Jacobean masques for example were fantastically elaborate and 
there's a record of one masque put on for Charles the First by the 
Inns of Court which cost over £.20,000 for a single night's entertain- 
ment. This is an extraordinary fact that, quite senselessly, people 
would go to this immense trouble, spend this immense amount of 
money for this curious kind of experience, which— incidentally, the 
adjective often applied to it is very significant here— is called a 
"transporting" experience. It transports you, takes you out of this 
world, puts you into the Other World. And of course the whole 
art of spectacle has developed with the advancing technology. The 
spectacles of the 16th and 17th centuries were limited by candles— this 
was the brightest light you could possibly put on anything. And it 
was not even until the middle of the 18th century that you could 
have an oil lamp which would burn without smoking and stinking. 
The argon wick and the glass chimney are quite late inventions. But 
then, by the very end of the 18th century and the beginning of 
the 19th, we begin to get tremendous technological advances which 
permit enormous increases of visionary spectacle. We get the inven- 
tion of the parabolic mirror, first used in lighthouses, then very quickly 
used in theatres for projecting beams. We get gas-light; that would 
be about 1800. We get limelight about 1820. And then by the 1880s, 
we get electricity and the possibility of creating prodigious efiEects of 
light, which to this day fascinate people. I mean, after all, the 
successes of the modern musical are entirely successes due to the 
strange visionary quality of these performances. And another very 
significant name, the instrument which was invented in the 17th 
century by Athanasius Kircher, the magic lantern— this device for 
projecting colored images in a dark room upon a white screen— received 
this name instantly. I mean, it was given this name. It has carried 
it ever since. It was felt to be an absolutely appropriate name, that 
it was something magical, something out of another world, which was 
thrown into this world. 

Now let us still more briefly discuss the relevance of these facts of 
visionary experience to the literature of religion and folklore. In all 
the religious traditions, the paradises and other worlds have precisely 
the qualities which are given in the descriptions of the visionaries. 

Visionary Experience ( ( 285 

The paradise is a garden. It is gem-like, it is full of the stones of fire 
as Ezekiel says. Where there are buildings, they are buildings made 
of precious stones as in the New Jerusalem. And in all the Buddhist 
and Hindu and Japanese paradises, again and again you will find 
these descriptions, which correspond exactly to the descriptions given 
by Weir Mitchell and Havelock Ellis of the peyote experience, or 
given in various accounts of visionaries of their kind of folkloric 
and popular religious tradition stems directly from this strange vi- 
sionary experience, which has played a very important part I think 
in the creation of these ideas of the Other World. And another quite 
interesting fact is: where precious stones are not common, but where 
glass is known, glass becomes an extremely important visionary adjunct. 
Even in the New Jerusalem; where the walls are actually made of 
precious stones, glass plays a very important part. There is a sea 
of glass in the center. The streets are made of transparent gold, 
glass-like gold. In the Celtic traditions, the Island of the Dead, where 
the dead go, is called Innisvetry, the island of glass. In the Teutonic 
tradition, the dead go to a place called Glasberg, the glass mountain. 
And again, these curious uniformities keep cropping up in all the 
various literatures. And to my mind there can be no doubt at all 
that all this can be fitted into this same picture which we found at 
the beginning of this lecture in the description of Plato of the Ideal 
World: that this is part of the natural history of the mind. We have 
these kind of experiences, even those of us who don't have them 
normally and only catch perhaps occasional glimpses or perhaps never 
have glimpses of them, have some kind of obscure knowledge of them 
at the back of our minds and when we read about these things or 
see them represented in works of art, they do strike a chord and 
evoke something. 

It's a very strange thought I think that we see a continuous spectrum, 
running all the way from such popular arts as fireworks and pageantry 
and theatrical spectacle right through popular religion, right through 
the visionary experience of those having what are now called pre- 
mystical states, right through to the undifferentiated light which has, 
as a matter of historical and psychological fact, always been associated 
with the full-blown mystical state. So that as I say, there is this full, 
complete spectrum, this gamut of experience from the simplest, what 
seem to be the most childish, to the extreme limit of the religious 
experience. And I for one find this fact profoundly interesting. It 
seems to me one of the most curious and fascinating topics which 
one can discuss in relation to this strange piece of work which is a 
man. Tliank you. [Applause.] 

Instructions for Use 
During a Psychedelic Session 


O (name of voyager) 

The time has come for you to seek new levels of reality. 

Your ego and the (name) game are about to cease. 

You are about to be set face to face with the Clear Light. 

You are about to experience it in its reality. 

In the ego-free state, wherein all things are like the void and 

cloudless sky, 
And the naked spotless intellect is like a transparent vacuum; 
At this moment, know yourself and abide in that state. 

O (name of voyager), 

That which is called ego-death is coming to you. 

This is now the hour of death and rebirth; 

Take advantage of this temporary death to obtain the perfect state- 

Concentrate on the unity of all living beings. 
Hold onto the Clear Light. 
Use it to attain understanding and love. 
If you cannot maintain the bliss of illumination and if you are slipping 

back into contact with the external world, 

The hallucinations which you may now experience. 
The visions and insights, 

Will teach you much about yourself and the world. 
The veil of routine perception will be torn from your eyes. 

Instructions for Use During a Psychedelic Session ( ( 287 

Remember the unity of all living things. 
Remember the bliss of the Clear Light. 
Let it guide you through the visions of this experience. 
Let it guide you through your new life to come. 
If you feel confused; call upon the memory of your friends and 
the power of the person whom you most admire. 

O (name), 

Try to reach and keep the experience of the Clear Light. 


The light is the life energy. 

The endless flame of life. 

An ever-changing surging turmoil of color may engulf your vision. 

This is the ceaseless transformation of energy. 

The life process. 

Do not fear it. 

Surrender to it. 

Join it. 

It is part of you. 

You are part of it. 

Remember also: 

Beyond the restless flowing electricity of life is the ultimate reality— 

The Void. 

Your own awareness, not formed into anything possessing form or 

color, is naturally void. 
The Final Reality. 
The All Good. 
The All Peaceful. 
The Light. 
The Radiance. 

The movement is the fire of life from which we all come. 
Join it. 

It is part of you. 

Beyond the light of life is the peaceful silence of the void. 
The quiet bliss beyond all transformations. 
The Buddha smile. 
The Void is not nothingness. 
The Void is beginning and end itself. 
Unobstructed; shining, thrilling, blissful. 
Diamond consciousness. 
The All-Good Buddha. 

Your own consciousness, not formed into anything. 
No thought, no vision, no color, is void. 

288 ) ) APPENDIX 

The intellect shining and blissful and silent— 

This is the state of perfect enlightenment. 

Your own consciousness, shining, void and inseparable from the great 

body of radiance, has no birth, nor death. 
It is the immutable light which the Tibetans call Buddha Amitabha, 
The awareness of the formless beginning. 
Knowing this is enough. 

Recognize the voidness of your own consciousness to be Buddhahood. 
Keep this recognition and you will maintain the state of the divine 

mind of the Buddha. 

Tributes from 

The Psychedelic Review 


Aldous Huxley died of cancer on the same day that John Kennedy 
was assassinated. The violent death of the young statesman over- 
shadowed the peaceful departure of the old philosopher. The 
public and the press have taken scant notice of his passing. Since 
Huxley devoted much attention and interest to the field of 
psychedelic research (he wrote three books and many articles on 
the subject), it is fitting that we should dedicate this issue of 
The Psychedelic Review to his memory. For this reason we have 
invited four men, who knew Huxley personally, to contribute their 
thoughts on the departure of this illumined soul. 

The editors of The Psychedelic Review 


[ GERALD heard] ^ 

After thirty-two years an intimate friendship with a remarkable 
man, possessed of a remarkable mind, comes to an end. Looking back 
over the landscape of that long relationship with Aldous Huxley, one 
sees that though it is crowded with books, just as a "built-up area" 

^Author-philosopher and lifelong friend of Huxley. 

290 ) ) APPENDIX 

is thick with houses, the books, outstanding in themselves, appear as 
symptoms of a mind even more remarkable than the surface mind 
visible to his public. To use a more literary simile, his books were 
the illumined initials in the Great Breviary of his intelligence. 

For he was the last of a rare and transitory species that appeared 
briefly in the ultimate phase of Renaissance Man:— the scholar of 
style, the essayist of genius, the ultra-learned novelist who "galvanizes" 
his characters with the high charge of his strange knowledge and the 
crackling static of his wit: the amazingly informed amateur whose 
selfless desire for all information, and impartial love of any under- 
standing, kept him perpetually seeking for insights in the Sciences and 
the Humanities, in the ancient esoteric tradition of mysticism and in 
the temerarious, empirical practices of the latest, most heterodox 

Here was the rarest of alloys— taste combined with temerity, daring 
speculation delivered in a perfect rendition of lucid and elegant 

This blend of opposites gave to Aldous Huxley's mind a temper 
that was perhaps unique. It is certainly hard to imagine that an 
intellect of this extraordinary, idiosyncratic cast will again emerge. 
For now has ended that brief climate of thought in which so rare a 
species could appear, let alone so advanced a specimen flower. 

We will not then be uttering empty eulogy if, in taking farewell, 
we say, "such was he as 'a man, and, take him all in all, we shall 
not look upon his like again'." 


f HUSTON smith! ^ 

When Aldous Huxley was at M.I.T. in the fall of i960, giving 
lectures which drew listeners so heavily that they jammed traffic all 
the way across the Charles River into Boston, I once spoke of those 
crowds as a tribute. "It's because I've been around so long," he replied. 
"I've become like Queen Anne's Cottage. If I live to be a hundred 
I shall be like Stonehenge." 

He didn't live to be a hundred, and the world is the loser. 

Most obviously, it has lost an encyclopedic intelligence. That 

2 Professor of Philosophy, M.I.T. 

Tributes from The Psychedelic) Review ( ( 291 

adjective is overworked these days, but in his case it comes close to 
being exact. Indeed, when a leading journal felt that an encyclopedia 
—the Fourteenth Edition of the JBritannica—itsdi needed to be 
brought under review, no one was surprised when Huxley was asked 
to do the job. 

More impressive than the range of the man's mind, however, was 
its sympathy and interest. Few major intelligences since William 
James have been as open. Huxley's regard for mysticism was well 
known by dint of being so nearly notorious. What some overlooked 
was his equal interest in the workaday world and its exigencies: 
peace, the population explosion, and conservation of our natural 
resources. To those who, greedy for transcendence, deprecated the 
mundane, he counseled that "we must make the best of both worlds." 
To their opposites, the positivists, his word was, "All right, one world 
at a time; but not half a world!" 

Accepting the fact that "truth lies at the bottom of a very muddy 
well," he descended: to ESP and LSD, to "sight without glasses" and 
Vedanta. But never as martyred hero; there wasn't a grain of "Invictus" 
in him. If he lost his reputation, it was not for his omnivorous 
interests but because he wasn't content simply to do what he could 
do well. His competence bored him. So the master of words moved 
on to what eludes them, remarking over his shoulder that "language 
is a device for taking the mystery out of reality." Not needing 
triumph or adulation, he could bypass them for truth. 

He could because he had so little egoism. A supreme unpreten- 
tiousness characterized him to the end. "It's a bit embarrassing," 
he said, "to have been concerned with the human problem all one's 
life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of 
advice than Try to be a little kinder.' " If, as he had earlier remarked, 
the central technique for man to learn is "the art of obtaining 
freedom from the fundamental human disability of egoism," Huxley 
achieved that freedom. 

But this wasn't his supreme achievement, for his personal problem 
was never pride so much as pessimism— "tomorrow, and tomorrow, 
and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day." His 
final victory, therefore, lay not in emerging selfless but in winning 
through to equanimity, to evenness of spirit and a generalized good- 
cheer. Thereby the line he used to close his best novel becomes the 
appropriate epitaph for his own life-story: "Of such is the Kingdom 
of Heaven." Said this time without sarcasm. 

292 ) ) APPENDIX 

ALDOUS HUXLEY [alan watts]^ 

I knew Aldous Huxley personally only after his so-called "mystical 
period" had begun, and had not by then read much of his earlier 
work of the Point Counter Point and Chrome Yellow period. I 
encountered him first through Ends and Means, Brave New World, 
and then Grey Eminence. 

It was just after he had written the latter that I got in touch 
with him for the first time, and was wholly enchanted by the breadth 
and intricacy of his interests. He was a marvelous conversationalist. 
Every time I met him I felt charged in some way, as if a whole new 
world of ideas had been opened up to me. He was an entrancing 
talker. I well remember the day when we were having lunch at the 
Tokyo Restaurant in San Francisco, and his conversation reduced 
everyone at the neighboring tables to silence because they wanted 
to listen in. 

When I first knew Aldous Huxley, he was in the beginning of 
the period in which he became interested in mystical experience and 
the transformation of consciousness. At that time I felt that he 
was following a type of mystical philosophy that rejected the material 
universe as a degraded mode of consciousness. It was about then that 
D. S. Savage wrote a critique of Huxley's work, in the Sewanee Review* 
saying that the old Huxley and the new Huxley were really just the 
same. Don't, he said, be deceived by the change. The old Huxley in 
Point Counter Point is a bitter and cynical man of destructive bril- 
liance: he loves to pick people apart. But this is the same Huxley 
appearing now in the guise of a mystic, for in Eastern mysticism the 
object is to transcend and thus abolish personality and all differentia- 
tion. The ideal of dissolving the whole world of multiplicity and 
of form into a sort of undifferentiated morass is a new way of playing 
Huxley's old game. 

There was, as I also felt, some truth in this at the time, but 
obviously Savage didn't know Huxley very well as a person. What was 
so striking about the man and his surroundings— the kind of house 

3 Author-philosopher, wrote The Joyous Cosmology (1962). 

4 Autumn, 1947. Reprinted in B. Rajan, ed., The Novelist as Thinker. London, 

Tributes from The Psychedelic Reyiew ( ( 293 

he lived in and the works of art he collected— was his actual fascination 
with the material world and his love of the good life. His prickly 
attitude, his critical-satirical point of view, was not really destructive: 
it was a defense of his own sensitivity. He was a very sensitive man 
indeed— too sensitive. Therefore he adopted a slightly aloof and 
superior attitude. After all, he and I went through the same kind 
of education— the British "public" school— and thus I understand 
not only his sexual preoccupations (as they come out in The Genius 
and the Goddess) but also the need for just this kind of "character 

As the years passed— say from 1945 on— Aldous Huxley's phi- 
losophy made a definite progression. He became, in effect, a full- 
fledged Mahayana Buddhist, with the vision of the total union of 
the spiritual and physical domains. Tliis is the Bodhisattva ideal, 
not of passing out of the world of form into the formless world of 
Nirvana, but of realizing the inner unity of Nirvana and the every- 
day world. He saw this unity not as one who, like a laissez-faire 
do-nothing reactionary, would leave the world as it is, but as one 
who incarnated the paradox that if you can see that the everyday 
world, as it is, is a divine manifestation, then and then only can you 
love it enough to want to change it in a constructive way. Other- 
wise people are changing the world not because they love it but 
because it is personally inconvenient to them. 

This philosophy of "spiritual materialism" found its final expression 
in Island, a book with which I find myself in complete harmony, 
so far as its philosophical content is concerned. Huxley made it a 
novel because the novehst was so largely his role and because the 
book had to be a counterpart to Brave New World. But as a writer of 
fiction, Huxley's skill in describing the ideal was not up to his skill 
in satirizing the real. Yet it must be admitted that for any artist 
the depiction of heaven is the hardest task of all— and thus the 
task in which he may most easily make a fool of himself. Island is a 
"thinly fictionalized" collection of essays on education, psychology, 
and metaphysics in which Huxley stuck out his neck as far as it 
would go. He advocated everything calculated to evoke the ridicule 
of sensible people— abolition of the sacred American family, free 
love, Tantric sex practices, drugs for inducing mystical experience, 
and the fantasy of the island paradise. He made himself a sitting duck 
for snickers in the literary reviews and scandal in the Sunday 

But Huxley was no fool, and no sentimentalist. It is just in those 
"sore point" areas where the public defends itself by jeers without 
argument, that we find the most touchy and important issues of 

294 ) ) APPENDIX 

the time. Within twenty years it will be clear to all of us that Aldous 
Huxley had a genius for raising the right questions. 


[timothy leary]^ 

November 22, 1963 was for Aldous Huxley the time to go. 

In paying tribute (a curious word) to a departed luminary, it is 
customary to appraise his contribution, to wrap up the meaning and 
message of the hero and to place it with a flourish in the inactive 

This ceremonial function is notoriously risky in the case of writers. 
The literary game has its own stock-exchange quotations in which 
hard-cover commodities rise and fall to the irrational dictates of 
scholarly fashion. 

To predict the place that Aldous Huxley will have as a literary 
figure is a gambling venture we shall leave to the professionals who 
are paid to do it. They might note that he did not win a Nobel prize— 
a good sign, suggesting that he made the right enemies and was 
properly unacceptable to the academic politicians. They will note 
also that he was a visionary— always a troublesome issue to the 
predictor. Since all visionaries say the same thing they are perennial 
commodities, difficult to sell short, annoyingly capable of turning 
up fresh and alive a thousand years later. 

But Aldous Huxley is not just a literary figure, and for that 
matter not just a visionary writer. Which adds to the critic's 
problem. The man just wouldn't stop and pose for the definitive 
portrait. He just wouldn't slide symmetrically into an academic 
pigeonhole. What shall we call him? Sage? Wise teacher? Calypso 
guru? Under what index-heading do we file the smiling prophet? 
The nuclear age Bodhisattva? 

Many of the generation of scholars and critics who presently 
adjudicate literary reputations received their first insights into the 
snobbish delights of the mind from the early novels of Huxley. 

... I believe that no one under fifty can quite realize how 
exciting Huxley seemed to us who were schoolboys or under- 

^ Psychologist and author of many works on psychedelic experience. 

Tributes from The Psychedelic Review ( ( 295 

graduates in the 'twenties ... he was a popularizer of what, at 
the time, were "advanced" ideas ... he was a liberator, who 
seemed to encourage us in our adolescent revolt against the 
standards of our parents.® 

This obituary appraisal, a nice example of the "cracked looking 
glass" school of literary criticism, continues in the same vein: 

I remained under the Huxleyan enchantment well into my 
twenties. The magic began gradually to fail after Point Counter 
Point (1928); its failure was due partly to my discovery of 
other contemporary writers (Proust, Joyce, Lawrence), partly 
to the fact that Huxley himself had by that time lost some- 
thing of his original sparkle. I felt little sympathy for his suc- 
cessive pre-occupations with scientific Utopias, pacifism, and 
Yoga. . . . 

Of all the misunderstandings which divide mankind, the most 
tragic, obvious, and vicious is the conflict between the young and 
the old. It is surely not Huxley who lost his sparkle but perhaps the 
quoted critic, who graduated from "adolescent revolt" (a dubious, 
ungracious middle-aged phrase) to a static "post-adolescent" fatigue 
with new ideas. Huxley continued to produce prose which sparkled 
to those who could transfer their vision from the mirror to the events 
which were occurring around them. 

I believe that no one over fifty can quite realize how exciting 
Huxley seems to the generations which followed their own. The 
early Huxley was the urbane sophisticate who taught naive youngsters 
that parental notions about sex and society left something to be im- 
proved. The early Huxley was an exciting coach in the game of 
intellectual one-upmanship, wickedly demonstrating how to sharpen 
the mind so that it could slice experience into categories, how to 
engage in brilliant witty repartee, how to be a truly sophisticated person. 

But, "Then came Brave New World (1932), an entirely new 
departure, and not, I think, a happy one . . ." Yes indeed. Then comes 
the grim new world of the 1930's and a new generation who were 
less concerned with sparkling conversation than with trying to figure 
out why society was falling apart at the seams. The game of polishing 
your own mind and developing your own personality (although kept 
alive in the rituals of psychoanalysis) starts to look like narcissistic 
chess. Huxley was one of the first men of his times to see the limita- 

«The Wicked Uncle: An Appreciation of Aldous Huxley," by Jocelyn Brooke. 
The Listener (London), Vol. LXX, No. 1811 (Dec. 12, 1963), p. 991. 

296 ) ) APPENDIX 

tions of the obsession with self and never again wrote to dehght the 

But old uncles are supposed to keep their proper place in my 
picture album. They have no right charging off in new directions. 
Investigating meta-self social ideas and meta-self modes of conscious- 
ness. No right to calmly ask the terrible new questions of the mind: 
is this all? Shakespeare and Joyce and Beethoven and Freud— is 
there no more? Television and computers— is this all? Uncle Aldous 
who taught us how to be clever, rational, individualistic, now claims 
that our sharp minds are creating air-conditioned, test-tube anthills. 
". . . as Mr. Cyril Connolly put it, 'science had walked off with art,' 
and a latent streak of vulgarity found expression . . ." Yes, the 
specific prophecy is vulgar. 

And what is even more tasteless— to be so right. Within fifteen 
years the ludicrous, bizarre mechanization of new world fantasy had 
become a reality. The conventional artistic response to automation is 
the nihilist protest. But again Aldous Huxley refuses to play the 
literary game, insists on tinkering with evolutionary resolutions. Some 
of us forgot that Uncle Aldous was also grandson. The extraordinary, 
dazzling erudition which spun out bons mots in the early novels is 
now sifting through the wisdom of the east. 

Huxley's diplomatic journey to the east brings back no final answer 
but the right questions. He seeks the liberating seed while avoiding 
the deciduous underbrush of ritual. 

The first question: is there more? Need the cortex be limited to 
the tribal-verbal? Must we use only a fraction of our neurological 
heritage? Must our minds remain flimsy toys compared to the wisdom 
within the neural network? How to expand consciousness beyond the 
learned mind? How to find and teach the liberation from the cultural- 
self? Where are the educational techniques for exploiting the potentials? 
Here again Huxley avoids doctrinaire digressions into mood, authority, 
semantics, ritual. He keeps moving; looking for the key which works. 

In 1954 he announces the discovery of the eastern passage. Doors 
of Perception. Heaven and Hell. Psychedelic drugs can provide the 
illumination, the key to the mind's antipodes, the transcendental 
experience. You may not want to make the voyage. You may have no 
interest in transcending your cultural mind. Fine. Don't take LSD. 
Or you may want illumination but object to the direct, short-cut 
approach. You prefer the sweat-tears of verbal exercises and rituals. 
Fine. Don't take LSD. But for those who can accept the "gratuitous 
grace," there it is. 

The age-long problem of how to "get out" has finally been solved. 
Biochemical mysticism is a demonstrated fact. Next comes the secona 

Tributes from The Psychedelic Review ( ( 297 

problem. There is the infused vision of the open cortex, flashing at 
speeds which far outstrip our verbal machinery. And there is the 
tribal marketplace which cannot utilize or even allow the accelerated 
neural energy. How can the gap be bridged? 

Aldous Huxley preached no escape from the insanity and semantic 
madness of the 20th century. His next message was not one of 
quietism and arhat passivity. No one was more concerned, more 
engaged, more involved in the active attempt to make the best of both 

To make the best of both worlds— this was the phrase we heard 
him repeat over and over again during the last years. Of course 
most of his readers and critics didn't know what he was talking 
about. If you don't realize that it is now a simple matter to reach 
ecstasy, to get out, to have the vision, to reach the other worlds of 
your own cortex, then technical discussions of "reentry" problems 
make little sense to you. 

But there it was. The old Mahay ana question now made real and 
practical. How to apply the now-available potentialities of the 
accelerated cortex? 

Aldous Huxley's last message to the planet contains the answer 
to this question in the form of the Utopian novel, Island. 

This book, published in 1962, is the climax of the 69-year voyage 
of discovery. It is a great book. It will become a greater book. 

Like all great books it is misunderstood in its time because it is 
so far in front of its time. It's too much to take. Too much. Island 
is a continent, a hemisphere, a galaxy of a book. 

At the most superficial level it's a science-fiction tale with heroes 
and villains in a fantasy land. It's a satire as well— of western 
civilization and its follies. So far, the book can be dealt with. 

But it's much more. It's a Utopian tract. Huxley's final statement 
about how to make the best of both worlds. Of individual freedom 
and social responsibility. Of East and West. Of left and right 
cerebral hemispheres. Of action and quietism. Of T antra and Arhat. 
Of verbal and non-verbal. Of work and play. Of mind and meta- 
mind. Of technique and nature. Of body and spirit. Of religion and 
the secular. 

It's a manual on education. A handbook on psychotherapy and 
mind control. A solution to the horrors of the bi-parent family, the 
monstrous father-mother pressure cooker. 

Too much, indeed, for one book; but there's more. 

Island is a treatise on living, on the living of each moment. 

And most important and staggering, the book is a treatise on dying. 

298 ) ) APPENDIX 

The easy intellectual rejection of this wealth of practical, how-to-do-it 
information is to call it fantasy. Adolescent daydreams about how 
things could be, in a society imagined and run by gentle, secluded 

But here is the terrible beauty of Huxley's science-fiction-satirical- 
utopian manual on how to live and how to live with others and how 
to die and how to die with others: it's all based on facts. Island is 
a popular presentation of empirical facts— anthropological, psychological, 
psychedelic, sociological. Every method, every social sequence described 
in Island is based on data. Huxley's Utopian ideas can work because 
they have worked. It's all been done— not in a fantasied future but 

It has been tried and done by Huxley himself, and by his "Palanese" 
wife Laura Archera Huxley, who presented many of these intensely 
practical down-to-earth ideas in her book, You Are Not the Target. 
It's a mistake to think of him as a detached novelist observing and 
commenting on the scene. Huxley was a tall, slightly stooped Calypso 
singer— intensely topical— strolling nearsightedly through the crowds, 
singing funny stilted verses in an English accent, singing about the 
events in which he is participating. He didn't just figure it out— he 
experienced much of it himself. 

Huxley's explorations with psychedelic drugs are an example of 
his engagement. His willingness to get involved. Remember, every 
person who can read without moving his lips has heard about what 
the Saturday Evening Post calls "the dangerous magic of LSD." 
And despite the controversy, almost everyone knows what is involved 
—the mind-loss and vision. Everyone has had to come to terms with 
the new development in his own fashion. 

There are as many rational reasons for not taking LSD as there 
are facets to the human mind— moral, practical, medical, psychiatric, 
mental. The real reason— however it is expressed— is fear. Fear of 
losing what we have. Fear of going beyond where we are. 

Aldous Huxley had spent years preparing himself for the fearful 
psychedelic voyage, and he made it without question when it presented 
itself. Why? Duty? Curiosity? Conviction? Courage? Faith in the 
process? Trust in his companions— divine or human? 

He did it, and the world will never forget it. 

But the gamble of the mind was not the last act of faith and 
courage. Aldous Huxley went on to face death as he had faced the 
whirling enigma of the life process. . . . 

^Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1963. Foreword by Aldous Huxley. 
* November 2, 1963. 


The choice is always ours. Then, let me choose 
The longest art, the hard Promethean way 
Cherishingly to tend and feed and fan 
That inward fire, whose small precarious flame, 
Kindled or quenched, creates 
The noble or the ignoble men we are. 
The worlds we live in and the very fates. 
Our bright or muddy star. 

— Aldous Huxley 
from Orion, 1931 

Source Notes 

CHAPTER ONE "1931 A Treatise on Drugs" published in The Chicago Herald 
and Examiner, October lo, 1931. Reprinted under tlie title "Drugs" in 
Nash's Pall Mall Magazine (March, 1932), p. 54. 

CHAPTER TWO "Wanted A New Pleasure" from Music at Mght, and Other 
Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1931), pp. 248-57. 

CHAPTER THREE "1932 Soma" from Brave New World (New York: Harper, 
1932), pp. 62-66; 93-96. 

CHAPTER FOUR "Propaganda And Pharmacology" from The Olive Tree, and 
Other Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 1936), pp. 29-30. 

CHAPTER FIVE "i944 A Boundlcss Absence" from Time Must Have A Stop 
(New York: Harper, 1944), pp. 138-43. 

CHAPTER SIX "1952 Downward Transcendence" from the epilogue to The 
Devils of Loudun (New York: Harper, 1952), pp. 313-15; 323-24. 

CHAPTER EIGHT "The Wisc and Gentle Triphibian" from Aldous Huxley, 
1894-1963: A Memorial Volume (New York: Harper, 1965), pp. 114-22. 

CHAPTER TEN "i954 ^h^ Doors of Perception" from The Doors of Perception 
(New York: ILarper, 1954), pp. 9-12; 55-62. 

CHAPTER TWELVE "The Far Continents Of The Mind" from an address deliv- 
ered at the International Philosophic Symposium of Parapsychological 
Studies, held at St. Paul de Vence, France, April 20-26, 1954. Published in 
Proceedings of Four Conferences of Parapsychological Studies (New York: 
Parapsychology Foundation, 1957), pp. 6-8. 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN "i955 Mescaline And The 'Other World' " from Proceed- 
ings of the Round Table on Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and Mescaline in 
Experimental Psychiatry, held at the Annual Meeting of the American 
Psychiatric Association, Atlantic City, N.J., May 12, 1955 (New York: 
Grune & Stratton, 1956), pp. 46-50. 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN "Disregarded In The Darkness" from This Timeless Mo- 
ment: A Personal View of Aldous Huxley (New York: Farrar, Straus & 
Cudahy, 1968), pp. 143-49. 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN "1956 Heavcu And Hell" from Heaven and Hell (New 
York: Harper, 1956), pp. 53-58. 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN "Brave Ncw World Revisited" published in Esquire, 
July, 1956, pp. 31-32 under the title "Brave New World Revisited: 
Proleptic Meditations on Mother's Day, Euphoria and Pavlov's Pooch." 
Reprinted in The Armchair Esquire (New York, 1958), pp. 236-244. 

CHAPTER TWENTY "History of Tcnsiou" from an address delivered at a Con- 
ference on Meprobamate and Other Agents Used in Mental Disturbances, 
held by The New York Academy of Sciences, October 18 and 19, 1956. 
Reprinted from Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, #67, pp. 
675-684, May, 1957. 


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO "1958 Chcmical Pcrsuasion" from Brave New World 
Revisited (New York: Harper, 1958), pp. 84-94. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds" from The Saturday 
Evening Post, October 18, 1958. Reprinted in Adventures of the Mind 
(New York, i960), pp. 81-94. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX "i959 The Final Revolution" from Contact: The San 
Francisco Journal of New Writing, Art, and Ideas, #2, 1959, pp. 5-18. 
The article is based on an address made by Huxley at the University of 
California, School of Medicine symposium on A Pharmacological Approach 
to the Study of the Mind, held at San Francisco, January 26, 1959, and 
was also published in a collection bearing that title (Springfield, 111.: 
Thomas, 1959). 

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT "1960 The Art of Fictiou" from The Paris Review, 
#23 (Spring, i960), pp. 66-69. The interview was conducted by George 
Wickes and Ray Frazer. Reprinted in Writers at Work, Second Series 
(New York: Viking, 1964), 

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE "Mushrooms for Luuch" from High Priest (New York: 
New American Library, 1968), pp. 64-67. 

CHAPTER THIRTY "Harvard Session Report" from notes taken at a psilocybin 
session conducted by the Psychedelic Research Project, Harvard University. 

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO "1961 London Interview" from a recorded interview 
with John Chandos, Landowne Studios, London, July 1961. 

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE "Visionary Experience" from Proceedings of the XIV 
International Congress of Applied Psychology, verbatim transcription, 
slightly edited. Reprinted in Clin. Psych, and by The International Fed- 
eration for Internal Freedom. 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR "Exploring the Borderland of the Mind" from Fate 
Magazine, Vol. 15, #9, September 1962, pp. 36-43. Translated into 
French under the title, "Quelle formidable machine que I'homme!" and 
published in Planete 3 (1962), pp. 35-39. 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE "Lovc and Work" from This Timeless Moment, pp. 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN "Moksha" from Island (New York: 1962), pp. 156- 

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE "1963 Culture and the Individual" from Playboy Maga- 
zine, November, 1963, pp. 84-88; 175-179. Reprinted in LSD: The Con- 
sciousness-Expanding Drug (New York, 1964), pp. 29-30, under the title, 
"Culture and the Individual." 

CHAPTER FORTY "Oh Nobly Bom!" from This Timeless Moment, pp. 295-308. 

APPENDIX A "i960 Visionary Experience" from a verbatim transcript, slightly 
edited, of Giffard Associates LP record A-102, Vol. II of "A Series of 
Talks on the Human Situation, Recorded Live from the Lecture Hall," 
produced by Laura Huxley. According to the liner notes this lecture was also 
delivered to scientists at Los Alamos in May, 1962. 

APPENDIX B "Instructions for Use During A Psychedelic Session" from T. 
Leary, R. Alpert, R. Metzner, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual 
Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (New Hyde Park: University 
Press, 1964), pp. 115-17. This manual is dedicated to Huxley. 

APPENDIX c "Tributes from the Psychedelic Review, Vol. I, #3, 1964, pp. 


Abreaction therapy, see Narcosyn- 

Acupuncture, 210, 212-13 
Adenosine triphosphate, 153 
AdrenaHn, 43, 45, 46, 197, 275 
Adrenochrome, 43, 45-6, 136, 175 
Alcohol, 4, 5, 9, 11, 16, 22, 24, 
51, 53, 96, 97, 98, 99, 105, 120- 
3, 124, 126, 128, 134, 136, 138, 
147, 149-50, 158, 159, 166, 198, 
Ale, see Beer 

Aipert, Richard (Ram Dass), 
LSD: 143; Psychedelic Experi- 
ence, The: 257 
Amanita muscaria, 4, 11, 73, 98, 

Amazon Valley, 38, 112 
American Academy of Arts & Let- 
ters, 157, 234 
American Psychiatric Association, 

3O' 33 
Amos, 123 

Amphetamine, 213, 254; see also 


Amytal, 139, 259 

Anaesthetic Revelation, 25 

Anhalonium lewinii, see Peyote 

Arabian Nights, 43, 102 

Arcilochus, 163 

Argand, Aim6, 71 

Arnold, Julia, xvii 

Arnold, Matthew, xvii, 144 

Arnold, Thomas, xvii 

Arunja, 228 

Asceticism, 51, 53 

Asclepias acida, see Milkweed 

Ascorbic acid, 153 

Aspirin, 147, 213 

Ayahuasca, 100, 113, 120, 199 

Bacchus, see Dionysus 

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 67, 77, 
86-7, 133, 220. B-minor Suite: 
86; Fourth Brandenburg Con- 
certo: 77; Musical Offering: 86, 

Balzac, Honore, 165 

Banisterio, see Ayahuasca 

Barbiturates, 24, 68, 98, 151-2, 
213, 254 

Barron, Frank, 180 

Baumgarten-Tramer, Dr., 215 

Bedford, Sybille, Aldous Huxley: 
A Biography: 51, 89, 188, 234, 

Beer, 24, 122, 135, 213, 254 

Beethoven, Ludwig von, 88, 296. 
Missa Solemnis: 88 

Belloc, Hilaire, 55 

Benzedrine, 98, 136-7, 138, 213, 

Bergson, Henri, 29, 155, 160, 214, 
223, 277. Two Sources of Re- 
ligion and Morality: 155, 277 

Beringer, Karl, xviii. Meskalin- 
rausch, Der: 277 

308 ) ) INDEX 

Berkeley, George, 88 

Berlin, Isaiah, 163 

Bernstein, Leonard, 113 

Betel, 4, 96 

Bhagavad-Gita, 217-18, 228-9 

Bhang, see Cannabis indica 

Blake, William, 42, 44, 64, 80, 
89, 130, 141, 144, 158, 160, 
172, 177, 193, 201, 250, 279. 
Marriage of Heaven and Helly 
The: 44, 89, 144 

Blewett, Duncan, 144, 194. Fron- 
tiers of Being: 144 

Blood, Benjamin Paul, 25 

Blyth, R. H, 48 

Boehme, Jacob, 46, 278 

Bond, Elinor, 72 

Book of Chronicles, 167 

Book of Revelation, 65, 206 

Book of Samuel, 167 

Boucher, Frangois, 82 

Bouverie, Alice, 72 

Brainwashing, 16, 95, 170 

Braun, Gerhart, 180 

Broad, C. D., 212 

Bronte, Emily, 103 

Brown, Barbara, 102-3 

Buber, Martin, 245 

Buddha, 181, 287-8 

Byrd, William, 86 

Cactus, see Peyote 

Camus, Albert, 132 

Cannabis indica, 97, 123, 134 

Cannabis sativa, 137 

Carbogen, 67, 70 

Carbon dioxide, 275 

Cassio, 166 

Castalia Foundation, 244 

Chandos, John, 188-9 

Chantal, Madame de, 85 

Chaucer, Geoffrey, Canterbury 

Tales, The: 165 
Chesterton, G. K, 55 
Chloral, 4, 16, 98 
Chlorpromazine, 137 

Cholden, Louis S., 72, 88 

Christ, 124, 181, 196, 230. Ser- 
mon on the Mount, The: 217, 

Churchill, Winston, 234 

Claudian, 283 

Coca, 96, 145, 198, 276 

Coca-Cola, 170 

Cocaine, xiv, 4, 5, 9, 12, 128, 134, 
136, 198, 254 

Coffee, 136, 213 

Cohen, Sidney, 143, 162, 262. 
The Beyond Within: 143; LSD: 

Congress of Applied Psychology, 

208-9, 210, 215 
Connolly, Cyril, 296 
Conze, Edward, Buddhist Texts: 

Crowley, Aleister, 3 
Curandero, see Shaman 

Dante, 52, 90, 164, 278. Inferno, 
The: 90 

Datura, 98 

David, king of Israel, 167 

De Quincey, Thomas, 147-8. Con- 
fessions of an English Opium- 
Eater, The: 147 

Dextro-amphetamine sulphate, 210 

Dianetics, 80 

Dickens, Charles, 165 

Dilaudid, 259 

Dionysus, cult of, 24, 105, 122, 

Ditman, Keith, 181 

Dostoyevsky, Feodor, 165 

Dreiser, Theodore, 157 

E-Therapy, 54 

Eckhart, Meister, xv, 141, 

Eisenhower, D wight, 110 
Eliade, Mircea, 235 



(( 309 

Eliot, George, 165 
Eliot, T. S., 34 
Elizabeth II of England, 71 
Elkes, Joel, 166 

Ellis, Havelock, 42, 45, 61, 285 
Engels, Friedrich, 168 
Equanil, 92, 98, 105 
Ergot, xiv, 45, 154 
Ernst, Max, 187 
Esdaile, James, m 
ESP, see Psychic phenomena 
Esquire, 92, 111, 114, 129 
Ether, 4, 98, 129, 131 
Ethylene disulphonate, 153 
Euripides, 122, 150 
Evans-Wentz, W. Y., 48 
Ezekiel, 65, 158, 192, 203, 273, 

Fabing, Howard, 101, 103 

FalstafT, Sir John, 166 

Farrelly, Frances, 73 

Fasting, 196 

Fate Magazine, 210 

Fausett, Hugh, 160 

Felice, Philippe de, 198. Foules 

en Delire: 22; Poisons Sacres: 

198, 275 
Fly agaric, see Amanita muscaria 
Fouchette, 168 
Frenquel, 100, 101, 103-4 
Freud, Sigmund, 35, n6, 254, 

Fuseli, John Henry, 72 

Galton visualizers, 41, 143 

Gardner, Reid, 235 

Garrett, Eileen, 37, 58, 72, 131 

Gestalt therapy, 235 

Gin, 150 

Godel, Alice, 68 

Godel, Roger, 56, 68 

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 

Gospel of St. John, The, 102 
Graves, Robert, 235, 236 
Guardi, Francesco, 49 
Gulliver's Travels, 216 

Happiness Pill, see Equanil and 

Hart, Homell, 126 

Hashish, 24, 96, 98, 120, 123, 
137, 198, 276; see also Canna- 

Heard, Gerald, 67, 69, 70, 83, 
86, 87, 100, 101, 103, 104, 109, 
143. Tribute to Aldous Huxley , 
A: 289-90 

Hebb, D. O., 57, 130, 155, 195, 

Heffter, Arthur, xviii 

Heim, Roger, 141, 181, 199, 276 

Hemingway, Ernest, 157 

Henbane, 136, 147 

Hennell, Tliomas, Witnesses, 
The: 105 

Herd-poisoning, 22, 124-7 

Heroin, xiv, 4, 98, 128, 134 

Hesse, Herman, 146 

Hibbert Journal, 32 

Hidden Persuaders, The, 170 

Histamine, 197, 275 

Hitler, Adolf, 125, 127, 170 

Hoffer, Abram, 32, 37, 40, 53, 
129, 143-4 

Hoffmann-LaRoche Laboratories, 


Hofmann, Albert, xiii-xv, 76, 141, 
145, 181, 199-200, 210, 213-14, 
Hopkins, Gerald Manley, 119 
Housman, A. E., 135, 213, 253 
Hubbard, Albert M., 67, 69-70, 

71, 80, 83, 86, 87, 108 
Huxley, Aldous, Antic Hay: xvii; 
Brave New World: xviii, xix, 3, 
5, 11, 13-15, 92-5, 100, 113, 
129, 134, 135, 163, 170-2, 178, 
238, 292, 293, 295; Brave New 

310 ) ) INDEX 

Huxley, Aldous (continued) 
World Revisited (article), 92- 
99, 105, 146; Brave New World 
Revisited (book): 129, 134-40; 
Chrome Yellow: xvii, 292; Ci- 
cadas, The: xvii; Collected Es- 
says: 218; Culture and the In- 
dividual: 247-56; Defeat of 
Youthy The: xvii; Devils of Lou- 
dun, The: 22-5, 29; Doors of 
Perception, The: xiii, xviii, 32, 
36, 40, 41, 44-50, 51, 52, 55, 
75, 89, 178, 179, 180, 223, 234, 
236, 238, 245, 296; Drugs that 
Shape Men's Minds: 146-56, 
158; Ends and Means: 292; Ex- 
ploring the Borderlands of the 
Mind: 210-16; Far Continents 
of the Mind, The: 58-60; Final 
Revolution, The: 163-73; Ge- 
nius and the Goddess, The: 68, 
73, 129, 293; Grey Eminence: 
292; Heaven and Hell: xiii, 
xviii, 61, 67, 68, 89-91, 100, 
109, 180, 296; History of Ten- 
sion, The: 114, 117-28; Island: 
XV, xix, 38, 74, 76-7, 78, 100, 
111, 141, 181, 185, 218, 222, 
227, 234, 237, 238, 239-43, 
255, 257, 258, 262, 264, 266, 
293, 297-8; Jesting Pilate: xvii; 
Leda: xvii; Literature and Sci- 
ence: 244; London interview: 
188-9; Mescaline and the 
'Other World': 61-6; Orion: 
299; Paris Review interview: 
176-9; Point Counterpoint: 292, 
295; Texts and Pretexts: 32; 
Those Barren Leaves: xvii; Time 
Must Have a Stop: xvii, xviii, 17- 
21; Treatise on Drugs, A: 3-5; 
Visionary Experience (Copen- 
hagen): 190-209; 271; Vision- 
ary Experience (MIT): 271-85; 
Wanted, a New Pleasure: 6-10; 
World of Light, The: 3; Writ- 
ers and Readers: 16 

Huxley, Ellen, 73, 113, 115, 116, 

Huxley, Julian, xvii, 37, 38, 57, 
112, 134 

Huxley, Laura Archera, 38, 67, 
74, 88, 100, 110, .113, 142, 
161-2, 238, 257, 298. This 
Timeless Moment: 74-9, 80, 
217-33, 257-66; You Are Not 
the Target: 221, 298 

Huxley, Leonard, xvii 

Huxley, Maria, 33, 34, 36, 37, 44, 
54, 67, 69, 78, 86, 102, 103, 
224-6, 238, 257, 258, 265 

Huxley, Matthew, 73, 113, 238, 

Huxley, Thomas Henry, xvii, 211 

Hyams, Joe, 157 

Hypnosis, 30, 37, 59, 76, 90, 100, 
101-2, 112, 129, 131, 141, 194, 
211, 234, 246, 273; see also 

Indra, 122 

Iproniazid, 138, 153 

Isaiah, 123 

Isherwood, Margaret, 157, 160 

Jaensch, H., 45 

James, William, 25, 120-1, 122, 
146, 148, 154, 155, 160, 181, 
211, 212, 214, 250, 254, 277. 
Varieties of Religious Experi- 
ence: 25, 120-1, 148 

Janiger, Oscar, 186 

Jeremiah, 123 

Job, 201, 277-8 

Johnson, Raynor, Watcher on the 
Hills: 175, 202, 278-9 

Joyce, James, 295, 296 

Julian of Norwich, 159 

Jung, Carl Gustav, 52, 62, 64, 88, 

Jiinger, Ernst, Besuch auf Goden- 
holm: xiii 

Kast, Eric, 257 

Katz, Sidney, 43, 55 

Kava kava, 4, 120 

Kawa, see Kava kava 

Keats, John, 72 

Kennedy, John F., 259, 263, 289 

Kerr, Deborah, 113 

Keys, Ancel, Biology of Human 

Starvation, The: 196-7 
King, Francis, 3 

Kircher, Athanasius, 71, 207, 284 
Kitselman, A. L., 54 
Kline, Nathan, 161 
Kl liver, Heinrich, Mescal: 63, 203, 

Krishna, 228-9 
Krishnamurti, 211, 214 

LaGuardia Report, 134 

Laudanum, see Opium 

Laughing gas, see Nitrous oxide 

Law, WiUiam, 46 

Lawrence, D. H., 34, 67, 295 

Leary, Timothy, 174, 180, 183, 
185, 186, 187, 200, 208, 234, 
237, 244, 246, 247, 260. High 
Priest: 180-2; Last Message of 
Aldous Huxley, The: 294-8; 
Psychedelic Experience, The: 
257, 260, 286-8 

LeCron, LesHe, 54 

Lee, Paul, 245 

Lewin, Louis, 3, 44. Phantastica: 

3-4' 11 
Lilly, John C, 57, 130, 155, 195, 


Littwin, George, 180 

Lodge, Oliver, Raymond: 91 

Loos, Anita, 73 

Louis XIV of France, 87, 167-8 

LSD, xiii, xiv, xviii, xix, 11, 43, 45, 

53, 56, 62, 63, 66, 67, 72, 74-8, 

80, 84, 86, 87-9, 90, 92, 99, 

100, 101, 109, 112, 116, 129-30, 

131, 132, 137, 141, 143, 144, 

145, 146, 154, 157, 158, 160, 

Index (( 311 

161-2, 174, 176-9, 186, 187, 
188-9, 199' 219' 223, 234, 235, 
236, 237, 244, 245, 246, 257, 
262-4, 266, 276, 277, 291, 296, 

LSD: The Consciousness Expand- 
ing Drug, 247 

Lysergic acid, see LSD 

Lysergic acid diethylamide, see 

Lysergic acid amide, xiv 

Lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide, 

Macleans Magazine, 43, 55 

Maharaja of Kashmir, 234 

Mandragora, see Mandrake 

Mandrake, 147 

Mann, Tliomas, 157 

Martin, John, 72 

Marvell, Andrew, 213 

Marx, Karl, 122, 135, 168 

Masefield, John, 234 

Maslow, Abraham, 202 

Mate, see Yerba mate 

Maugham, W. Somerset, 234 

Menninger Foundation, 161, 174 

Meprobamate, see Miltown 

Merton, Thomas, 157 

Mescalin, xiii, xiv, xviii, 3, 11, 22, 
24, 31, 32, 33, 35, 40, 42, 43, 
44, 45, 46, 47, 52, 53, 54, 55, 
56, 57, 59, 61-5, 66, 67, 68-9, 
70, 72, 75, 80, 84, 86, 87, 89, 
90, 92, 99, 101-2, 103-4, 109-10, 
115, 116, 129-30, 131, 132, 141, 
154, 157-8, 160, 178-9, 180, 
188-9 190, 199, 236-7, 245, 258, 
271, 276 

Metzner, Ralph, Psychedelic Ex- 
perience, The: 257 

Mexican mushrooms, see Psilocybe 

Micah, 123 

Milarepa, 195 

Milkweed, 134, 198 

3'2 )) 

Milton, John, 104, 135, 181, 200. 

Paradise Lost: 100, 104, 200 
Miltown, 92, 98, 105, 117, 137, 

139, 210 
Mitchell, S. Weir, 42, 45, 61, 64, 

Mitchison, Naomi, 53 
Mohammed, 202, 278 
Moksha-medicine, xv, xviii, xix, 38, 

44, i8i-2, 238-43, 257 
Morant, Soulie de, 212 
Morning glory seeds, see Ololiuqui 
Morphine, 4, 5, 12, 126, 259 
Mozart, W. A., 87, 241 

Napoleon I, 168, 169 
Narcosyn thesis, 68, 140 
Native American Church, 105 
New York Academy of Science, 

113, 114 
Newsday, 134 
Niacinamide, 129 
Nicolas, Joep, 104 
Nicotinic acid, 153 
Nitrous oxide, 25, 129, 131, 146, 

155, 160, 214, 277 
Noah, 97, 120 

Ocampo, Victoria, 109 

Ololiuqui, xiv, 51, 54, 67, 98, 145 

Opium, 4, 24, 96, 97, 98, 120, 
122, 135, 136, 147, 150, 198, 
254, 276 

Orwell, George, xviii, 94. 1984: 94 

Osgood, C. E., 215 

Osis, Karlis, 194 

Osmond, Humphry, xiv, xviii, 22, 
29, 31, 32-9, 40, 43, 45, 46, 53, 
55' 56, 57' 61, 69, 70, 71, 74, 
75, 80, 83, 86, 100, 101, 105, 
107, 108, 110, 112, 114, 131, 
132, 141, 142, 157, 161, 174, 
179, 180, 183, 185, 238, 244, 
258, 262 


Page, Irvine, 135 
Palestrina, G. P. da, 86-7 
Parapsychology, 37, 51, 58, 70, 

Parapsychology Foundation, 58, 

194, 2H 
Paris Review, 176 
Pascal, Blaise, 8i 
Pavlov,I.P., 170, 185, 186 
Penfield, Wilder, 72 
Pentothal, 139 
Percodan, 259 
Peyote, xiv, xviii, 4, 42, 44-5, 53, 

54, 63, 67, 85, 89, 98, 110, 122, 

137, 146, 154, 179, 199, 203, 

276, 285 
Peyotl, see Peyote 
Pfeiffer, Virginia, 217, 232, 259, 

263, 264 
Phanerothyme, see Psychedelic 

Planete, 210 
Plato, 192, 272, 279, 285. Phaedo: 

192, 272 
Playboy, xviii-xix 
Plotinus, 181, 191, 202, 253, 272, 

Pope, Alexander, 190 
Poppy, see Opium 
Price, H. H., 212, 214 
Proust, Marcel, 295 
Psilocybe mexicana, xiv, 100, 105, 

122, 132, 141, 181, 187, 199- 

200, 226, 234, 276 
Psilocybin, xiv, xviii-xix, 130, 141, 

145, 162, 174, 181, 183-4, 190» 

199-200, 208, 217, 219, 226, 

235, 236, 237, 255, 276, 277 
Psychedelic drugs, xiv, 17, 32, 37, 

38, 61, 100, 107, 132, 141, 146, 

185, 234, 236-7, 247, 254.6, 

293, 296, 298 
Psychedelic guide, 74, 76, 78, 217, 

Psychedelic Research Project, 89, 

174, 180 

Psychedelic Review, 244, 289 
Psychic phenomena, 54, 56, 76, 

84, 87, 129, 132, 211, 215, 291 
Psychedelic, see PsychedeHc drugs 
Psychotomimetic, see Psychedehc 

Puharitch, Andrija, 56, 72-3, 108 

Randall, John, 161 

Raymond, Harold, 42, 55 

Redon, Odilon, 178 

Rembrandt, 232 

Reps, Paul, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: 
217, 231, 235 

Reserpine, 137 

Restrictive environment, see Sen- 
sory deprivation 

Reti, Ladislao, 55 

Rhine, J. B., 52, 58, 132 

Rig-veda, 11, 134, 276 

Ritalin, 213 

Rockefeller, Nelson, 70 

Rouhier, Alexandre, xviii 

Royal Society of Literature, 234 

Russell, Bertrand, 34, 110 

Russell, George ("A.E,"), 193, 

Sabazius, 24, 122; see also Beer 
Sabina, Maria, 199, 200, 276 
Sacred mushrooms, see Psilocybe 

St. Anthony, 81, 155, 158, 195, 

St. Augustine, 222 
St. Dionysius the Areopagite, 181 
St. Francis, 82 
St. Jean Vianney, 198 
St. John of the Cross, 122, 278 
St. Paul, 159, 195, 202, 278 
St. Peter, 148 

St. Tlieresa of Avila, 122, 148 
St. Tliomas Aquinas, 41 
Sales, Frangois de, 85 

Index (( 313 

Sandoz Laboratories, 162, 237 
Santayana, George, 191, 271-2 
Sartre, Jean-Paul, 132 
Saturday Evening Post, 143, 146, 

158, 298 
Savage, D. S., 292 
Schizophrenia, 29, 32, 37, 42-3, 46, 

47, 51, 52, 90, 91, 200 
Scopolamine, 16, 98, 139 
Sebastian, John, 87-8 
Sechehaye, Marguerite, Journal 

d'une Schizophrene: 201 
Self-flagellation, 197 
Sensory deprivation, 51, 57 
Senta, Quaglia, 212 
Serotonin, 136 
Sewanee Review, 292 
Shakespeare, William, 125, 164, 

165, 166, 284, 296. Hamlet: 

247; Juius Caesar: 125 
Shaman, 4, 54, 73, 105, 187, 200, 

Sheldon, William, 34, 37, 143, 166 
Shelley, P. B., 71 
Shiki, 48 

Shulgin, Alexander, xvii-xix, 107 
Sleep deprivation, 197 
Smart, Ghristopher, 244-5 
Smith, Huston, Aldous Huxley: A 

Tribute: 290-1 
Smith, Phillip E., 129, 131. Chem- 
ical Glimpses of Reality: 1 30 
Smythies, John, 30, 32, 41, 55, 144 
Society for Psychical Research, 212 
Socrates, 192, 272 
Soma (drug of Ancient Aryans), 

11, 24, 96, 100, 105, 120, 122, 

134-5, 198, 276 
Soma (drug of Brave New World), 

xviii, xix, 12-14, 92, 96, 97-8, 

134-6, 138, 139, 179, 238 
Soma (modem prescription drug), 

163, 171 
Spath, Ernst, xviii 
Spencer, Herbert, 211 
Stalin, Josef, 170, 211 
Steiner, Madame, 69-70 

314 ) ) INDEX 

Suger, Abbot of St.-Denis, 206, 

Surin, Father, 196 

Suzuki, D. T., Essence of Bud- 
dhism: 132; Mysticism, Christian 
and Buddhist: 132 

Tea, 136, 213 

Telepathy, see Psychic phenomena 

Teonanacatl, see Psilocybe mexi- 

This Week Magazine, 157 
Tibetan Book of the Dead, The, 

44, 47, 48, 67, 217, 21 8, 224-7, 

257, 258-9, 260 
Time Magazine, i6i 
Toadstool, see Amanita muscaria 
Tobacco, 134, 138 
Tolstoy, Leo, 163, 165, 194. Death 

of Ivan Ilyitch, The: 194 
Tomorrow Magazine, 55 
Traherne, Thomas, 205, 271, 281. 

Centuries of Meditation: 281 
Twilight sleep, 98 

Walter, Grey, 211 

Ward, Mrs. Humphrey, xvii 

Wasson, Robert Gordon, 11, 73, 
105, 130, 132, 141, 199. Russidf 
Mushrooms and History: 105 

Watts, Alan, Joyous Cosmology, 
The: 292; Some Remembrances 
of Aldous Huxley: 292-4 

West, L. Joly, 131, 186, 197 

White, Claire, Nicolas, 234 

Whitehead, Alfred North, 12^ 

Whorf, Benjamin, loi 

Williams, Roger, 147 

Wine, 24, 120, 122, 123 

Woodroffe, John ("Arthur Ava- 
lon"), 234-5 

Wordsworth, William, 125, 130, 
158, 167, 181, 193, 204, 246, 
251, 252, 280-2. Expostulation 
and Reply: 252; Lyrical Bal- 
lads: 167; Ode on the Intima- 
tions of Immortality: 158, 193, 

World Academy of Arts & Science, 
38, 234 

Uexkiill, J. J. von, 101 

Van Gogh, Vincent, 177, 205 
Verdi, Giuseppe, 87 
Veronal, 4, 98 

Waley, Arthur, Monkey: 54 
Wallace Laboratories, 171 

Yage, see Ayahuasca 

Yerba mate, 136 

Yoga, 195, 198, 235, 273, 274-5 

Zaehner, R. G., Mysticism, Sacred 

and Profane: 214 
Zilboorg, Gregory, 106 
Zimmer, Heinrich, Philosophies of 

India, The: 235 

' V 




a mammoth intellectual distance, 
from psychology (Freudian, Jung- 
ian, Bergsonian) to medicine; from 
religion (Buddhist, ancient Greek) 
to ecology; from literature (William 
Blake, William James) to political 
warnings of astonishing immediacy. 
Aldous Huxley's grasp of the inter- 
connections of contemporary mal- 
aise, schizophrenia and other mental 
conditions, and the uses of psycho- 
tropic drugs as mystical release was 
to foreshadow the drug faddism of 
the Sixties, and the return to mysti- 
cism and transcendent disciplines of 
the Seventies. 

MOKSHA is introduced by the well- 
known pioneers of psychotropic 
substances, Albert Hofmann and 
Alexander Shulgin, and undertaken 
with the help of Huxley's widow, 
Laura Archera Huxley. The editors 
have gathered selections from 
Huxley's books (Brave New World, 
Time Must Have A Stop, The Doors 
of Perception, Heaven and Hell, and 
Island), as well as magazine articles, 
interviews, correspondence and sci- 
entific papers, which vividly dem- 
onstrate the profound revolutionary 
breadth of Huxley's work and ideas. 

Distributed by Farrar, Straus & Giroux 


Jacobus tenBroek Library 















A Partial List of Contents 

Wanted, a New Pleasure 


Propaganda and Pharmacology 

Downward Transcendence 

The Doors of Perception 

The Far Continents of the Mind 

Mescaline and the "Other World" 

Drugs That Shape Men's Minds 

Disregarded in the Darkness 

History of Tension 

A Boundless Absence 

Brave New World Revisited 
Chemical Persuasion 

The Final Revolution' 
Mushrooms for Lunch 
Visionary Experience 

Exploring the Borderlands 

of the Mind 

May Morning in Hollywood 

O Nobly Born! 

A Treatise on Drugs 

Culture and the Individual